Derek Bullock definitely would have appreciated a bit more support Friday night.
The GreenJackets are hoping that support is on its way.
On a night when the Jackets returned home from a most successful 6-2 road trip that yielded them the top spot in the South Atlantic League Southern Division, Delmarva spoiled Bullock's 1997 Augusta starting debut with a 2-1 victory at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Bullock, who opened the year at advanced-Class A Lynchburg, was the first of four new Jackets to arrive on the scene thanks to a flurry of roster moves this week. After Friday's frustrating loss, the club can only hope the changes don't bring their late-season surge to a screeching halt.
"That's what we're here for, to get guys to move on to the next level, that's going to happen," Jackets manager Scott Little said of the promotion of starter Paul Ah Yat, SAL all-star closer David Daniels and reliever Brian O'Connor to Lynchburg. "I feel we'll be OK, we've got some quality, experienced players joining us, and hopefully we might actually be an improved club down the stretch."
In what was an otherwise promising outing for Bullock, Calvin Pickering's 20th home run of the season for Delmarva - a 425-foot blast to dead center field in the top of the second inning cost the 24-year-old right-hander a chance at victory.
Following the Pickering homer, the Shorebirds went up 2-0 when former Oklahoma hoops star turned baseball superprospect Ryan Minor scored from second base, after a single by Carlos Cassimiro got past Jackets center fielder Alex Pena for an error.
Bullock (1-1), who picked up a win in relief July 29 against Hickory, took the loss, allowing one earned run on six hits with a walk and a strikeout in 4 innings.
Augusta made it 2-1 in the bottom of the second on an RBI-sacrifice fly by Boomer Whipple, but Birds starter Josh McNatt gave up just two more hits and two walks before the bullpen took over.
McNatt improved his record to 4-1, giving up the lone run and four hits in 51/3 innings. Gabe Molina pitched 22/3 innings of scoreless relief, and Ryan Kohlmeier struck out the side in the ninth to nail down his SAL-best 21st save.
With the void left by the left-hander Ah Yat, who was promoted to Lynchburg last week after going 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 90 innings for the Jackets this season, a starting rotation that had become one of the league's best with a torrid July, there is little doubt the club is counting on a big final month of the season from Bullock.
"He's a great kid with a super attitude, and he pitched pretty well tonight with a below-average fastball," Jackets pitching coach Scott Lovekamp said of Bullock, who was 2-0 with a 4.81 ERA in 15 appearances at Lynchburg this season. "Sure, you hate to lose a guy like Ah Yat, but there's no doubt that Derek is going to put us in a position to win some ballgames down the stretch."
NOTES: Along with the three Jackets pitchers who were promoted to Lynchburg, shortstop Luis Figueroa is also headed to the HillCats and the Carolina League. Coming down from Lynchburg along with Bullock are LHP Rick Paugh and shortstop Derek Swafford, who set the club record for stolen bases in a season, with 52 for the 1995 champion Jackets. Also joining the bullpen is 1996 ninth-round pick, RHP Jess Siciliano. OF/1B Garrett Long was activated from the disabled list July 30, and struggling outfielder Corey Pointer, who led the Sal with 116 strikeouts in 248 at-bats, was demoted to short-season Class A Erie.