Augustan is named league's player of the week

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Augusta resident Ray Serrano has played professional baseball at some level for the past dozen years. He's spent this summer proving that even at age 30, he still has some pop in his bat.

Playing for the Sioux City Explorers, of American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, Serrano was named the league's player of the week in an announcement from the league office on Monday.

Serrano went 15 for 23 (.652) in six games last week with two homers and eight RBI. He went 4 for 5 with a double, triple and four runs scored July 29.

The veteran catcher is in his second season with Sioux City and third in the independent ranks. He leads the team with nine home runs.

Serrano previously played 10 seasons in the minor leagues for the Atlanta Braves organization. The right-handed Puerto Rican reached the Triple-A ranks before the Braves released him after the 2008 season.

BASIC BALL: Former Greenbrier High School and University of Georgia star Rich Poythress ran into an odd challenge at the beginning of the season. He previously set records and won state titles in high school, took his team to the College World Series at the next level and, as a pro, led the minors with 130 RBI last season.

But the Double-A prospect for the Seattle Mariners fell into an extended slump with the Jackson Generals, hitting just .224 in the first half.

"This was the first time I've ever started really slow," Poythress told The Jackson Sun . "It was a learning experience."

Poythress said he has taken a more relaxed approach at the plate lately and his numbers have improved dramatically. Since the all-star break, the right-handed first baseman is hitting .317 with 17 RBI in 38 games. He's also lowered his strikeout average from one every 4.7 at bats in the first half to one every 2.2 at bats in the second half.

Poythress will celebrate his 24th birthday on Thursday.

YOU'RE OUT: A former first-round pick was suspended last week by the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Steve Evarts , a 2006 first-round selection by the Atlanta Braves, was suspended 50 games. The left-handed pitcher, who missed the past two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008, is now a starter for the Charleston RiverDogs in the New York Yankees' organization.

Evarts was 1-5 with a 5.65 ERA for Charleston.

NEW TEAM: Former Augusta GreenJackets pitcher Zack Wheeler , who was traded by the Giants just before the trade deadline for Carlos Beltran , made his debut in the Mets organization last week.

The first-round pitcher gave up four earned runs on seven hits in four innings at the Advanced-A level as part of the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League.

Wheeler had a 7-5 record and 3.99 ERA for the Advanced-A San Jose Giants of the California League before the trade.


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