Originally created 07/12/97

Center fielder may be ready to move on



You could see the spring in his step as he sped after Jarred Wong's liner to deep center and laid out to make a diving over-the-shoulder circus catch.

The GreenJackets, they have been witnessing for the past few weeks the transformation, the renewed confidence, the new-found charge in his bat, much like they saw Friday night, when the gifted center fielder stroked a few more big hits.

Yes, Freddy May is a new man these days, a young ballplayer with tools who finally appears ready to lift his game to the level. A level most in the Pirates organization have been patiently waiting for with fingers crossed.

But against Macon and the Braves' organization's brightest young pitching prospect, the Jackets couldn't ride May's surge and shuddered as starter Michael Chaney made one bad pitch that cost him a victory, and fell 5-3 before 3,088 fans at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

With May's binge, a vastly-improved lineup with Lynchburg demotees - first baseman Morgan Walker and catcher John Turlais, and Chaney's solid performance, all signs point to a second half that could end up with a pennant race for the third-place Jackets (9-13) after all.

"I just feel a lot better mentally, a lot more confident," said May, who went 2-for-5 in the leadoff spot, giving him a .322 average in July that raised his season average from .203 on July 1 to .225. "I've tried all along, even when I was going bad, to be productive at the plate and the field and help this ballclub. I think my confidence level has been the difference now in my hitting. That's been the biggest difference."

Chaney was perfect through three innings and had allowed only one hit and a walk with five strikeouts through 51/3 innings.

The lone lapse came with one out in the sixth, as the left-hander was tagged by Macon shortstop Glenn Williams, who ripped his sixth home run of the season - a two-run shot that gave the Braves a 2-1 lead.

The 22-year-old Chaney (6-4) who, like May, has been on a July tear - he allowed only seven hits and two earned runs over 101/3 innings his two previous starts this month - took the loss with six innings of two-hit ball.

Macon ace Jason Marquis was not sharp in five innings, walking six and allowing six hits, but gave up just one run - May scored on Turlais' RBI-single in the first inning - for his South Atlantic League leading 11th victory.

"We just didn't get the big hits when we needed them tonight, but I thought we played a good ballgame, got a good outing from Chaney and another great night from Freddy May," said Augusta manager Scott Little, whose Jackets stranded 10 baserunners. "Freddy's a guy who feels now like he has a chance at the plate, and you can see the difference in him."

NOTES: The Jackets clubhouse has been abuzz the last three days with a slew of moves. Along with the addition of Morgan Walker, who was sent down from Lynchburg on Thursday, outfielder Al Davis, who batted .240 with six homers and 30 RBI with 27 steals for the Jackets, was promoted to Lynchburg. Catcher John Turlais was also demoted from Lynchburg and joined the Jackets on Thursday, taking the spot of pitcher Ricardo Finol, who is on the disabled list and headed to Bradenton, Fla., for a 30-day rehab stint. First baseman Garrett Long went on the DL on Wednesday and outfielder Randy Edwards, promoted from Bradenton of the rookie Gulf Coast League, was activated. On Friday, Edwards went on the DL and RHP Carlos Alvarado came off the DL. ... Turlais went 3-for-3 on Friday and is now 6-for-8 in three games with the Jackets. ... Pittsburgh director of player development Paul Tinnell and roving minor league outfield/baserunning instructor Gary Redus, a former big-league outfielder with the Pirate, Reds, Phillies and White Sox, were in town with the club for the homestand.