Augusta GreenJackets in unique position with four left-handed starting pitchers

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Augusta GreenJackets manager Mike Goff is curious as to how his lefty-heavy rotation will play itself out as the season progresses.

The GreenJackets have four left-handed pitchers in the starting rotation right now. Three were in the Opening Day rotation, and one was added to fill a hole left by injury.

“I’ve never had four lefties in a rotation before, so it’s kind of interesting to see how it’s going to play out. You always wonder,” Goff said.

Carlos Diaz, Luis Ysla, Christian Jones and Matt Lujan are the four lefty starters. To add to the southpaw storm, left-hander Steven Messner serves as Jones’ “piggyback” reliever, pitching multiple relief innings behind Jones.

Lujan, the veteran of the rotation at 25 years old, has been the steadiest through four outings, including two starts. He has a 1.45 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 18⅔ innings.

Lujan proved his worth as an Augusta swingman last year, making 12 starts and 15 total appearances for a 3.33 ERA. He keeps the ball on the ground at a good rate and avoids high walk totals.

Diaz has also been reliable in three starts spanning 14⅓ innings, recording a 2.51 ERA with 11 strikeouts. The 20-year-old Colombian pitches with poise beyond his years and gets the most out of his stuff.

The rest have been shaky in small sample sizes. Ysla has walked 11 in nine innings over three starts, allowing seven runs. Jones rebounded from a rough first start to throw five no-hit innings in his second outing.

Messner, who impacts games as much as Jones in long relief outings, has allowed three earned and five total runs in 4⅓ innings.

“The biggest thing is these kids throwing strikes,” Goff said. “They call have pretty good arms, so they should be OK. They all have good arms, but they’re all young.”

BEDNAR BASHING: Third baseman Brandon Bednar began the season on a tear and has been the most reliable bat in a lineup experiencing ups and downs.

Bednar enters the week hitting a team-high .319, the only batting average above .300 on the team. He reached base by hit in nine of the first 13 games, and all nine were multi-hit games.

He’s tied for the South Atlantic League lead with 22 hits.

“He just knows how to hit. He has no fear of hitting with two strikes,” Goff said. “He gives you a professional at-bat every time up. He battles with two strikes, he uses the entire field, stays within himself, and doesn’t get too big and overswing.”

Bednar is a tall infielder drafted in the seventh round last year out of Florida Gulf Coast. Baseball America tabbed him as potentially the closest to reaching the major leagues from his San Francisco Giants draft class.

Bednar is “a versatile defender with no glaring weakness or true plus tool,” the publication said.

He’s expected to see more innings around the infield as the summer heat takes its toll on the young players, and he’s capable of playing all four infield spots. For now, he has played the majority of his time at third base, while filling in some at first base because of injury.


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