Payne wants to finish strong for GreenJackets

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After a demotion to Augusta, outfielder Shawn Payne is treating the assignment as motivation to end the season on a stronger note.

Payne has manned left field well while providing a major spark to the GreenJackets lineup in the leadoff spot, entering the week hitting .348 with four doubles and four stolen bases in 13 games. The athletic outfielder has four walks to go with a triple and a home run in 54 plate appearances.

The assignment to Augusta came after Payne hit .229 with a .625 OPS in 73 games for Advanced-A San Jose earlier this season. He struggled adjusting to more advanced pitching, slugging just .305 in the hitter-friendly California League.

The late-season assignment is Payne’s second trip to Augusta after playing nearly all of 2012 for the GreenJackets, hitting .309 with six home runs and 53 stolen bases. He said he’s looking for similar success to end the 2013 season and take something positive from the assignment.

“It’s kind of like a new beginning,” Payne said. “The last month of the season here, I’m just trying to end strong and come back to spring training trying to win a job.”

Payne is on his way to a strong end to the season, and the GreenJackets are reaping the benefits of his ability. The former Georgia Southern outfielder has an advanced bat for the South Atlantic League and has proven capable of hitting his way through the league.

“He has given us an unbelievable spark,” manager Mike Goff said. “It’s not just offensive, but on the basepaths, leadership, how he goes about his business. He has played good defense for us since he’s been here. After losing (Matt) Duffy, he has come in and picked up the slack.”

SOLID DEBUT: Left-handed starter Joe Kurrasch faced the task of starting the first full-season game of his career at 9:50 p.m., in Game 2 of a doubleheader on Saturday. While his Augusta debut might have been overshadowed by the dramatic home runs of the doubleheader, Kurrasch threw five solid innings and was steady throughout.

The left-hander allowed one earned run (and two total) on four hits in five innings, walking one and striking out five. Kurrasch totaled four wild pitches, a sign of nerves that led to overthrowing his breaking ball, but he showed a quality mix of pitches.

Kurrasch threw a low-90s fastball with tailing action that Charleston’s hitters struggled picking up, Goff said. He combined it with a very good breaking ball and changeup mixed in effectively, and he showed intelligence by setting hitters up and changing eye levels.

Kurrasch was drafted in the eighth round in 2012 out of Penn State, but he grew up in California and played at Berkeley for one season before transferring. He thrived at Penn State, recording a 2.05 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 87⅔ innings for the Nittany Lions in his junior season.


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