The deadline for teams to submit their postseason roster to the South Atlantic League passed last week. And despite a request for help from GreenJackets manager Marty Brown, no moves were made.
Rumors had been circulating about the possible return of Eddy Furniss as well as some pitching help from Lynchburg, but Pittsburgh Pirates director of player development Paul Tinnell told Brown he would not make any immediate moves.
Rules allow players from lower levels to be added to the Augusta postseason roster between now and the start of the playoffs Aug. 31, but an organization cannot drop players from higher levels down to playoff-bound clubs after Aug. 10.
For obvious reasons, adding the bat of Furniss -- the former Louisiana State All-American who batted .465 with nine home runs and 31 RBI in 24 games with Augusta before jumping to Class AA Carolina -- would have been welcomed with open arms.
But Brown points to a nucleus which includes Kory DeHaan, Derrick Lankford, Terrance Freeman, Xavier Burns and Lee Evans -- all with more than 90 games and 300 at-bats in a Jackets uniform this season -- and Carlos Rivera, who is back after a stint in Lynchburg, with 75 games and 268 at-bats with the Jackets before Saturday.
"We all know now that this is what we've got for the playoffs so now these guys understand it's all up to them to turn this around," Brown said. "It would have been nice to get a little help for the stretch run, but I like what we've got. Sure, we're struggling right now, but we've still got a nucleus of guys that have had a great season."
Playoff tickets go on sale Monday at 9 a.m. at Lake Olmstead Stadium. The GreenJackets, who won the first half of the Southern Division, will travel to face the second-half champion in Game 1 of the SAL Divisional Playoff Series on Aug. 31. Game 2 will be played at The Lake on Sept. 1 and, if necessary, the Jackets will also host a decisive Game 3 of the series on Sept. 2
BUZZ: Outfielder Sonny Cortez is likely out for the season with a stress fracture in his leg. ... On Monday, left-hander Mike Gonzalez makes his first start in more than a month in Hickory. In eight starts with the Jackets, Gonzalez was 4-2 and was in the top five in the SAL with a 1.96 ERA before earning a promotion to Lynchburg in May. But the 20-year-old Texan developed tendinitis in his shoulder and struggled with the HillCats, going 0-3 with a 6.67 ERA in seven starts. ... Right-handed pitcher Carl South was in the Pirates organization for on the Jackets disabled list at the time of his release two weeks ago, was acquired on the final day of the SAL season in 1996 in a trade with Los Angeles after spending the season with Savannah. But South encountered major arm troubles and has not pitched above rookie ball since the trade.
CLOSING IN: With 48 stolen bases through Friday, Gutierrez needs five steals in the final 15 games to break the Augusta all-time single-season record. Derrick Swafford swiped 52 bags for the SAL champion Jackets in 1995. The mark is also in range for Freeman, who had 40 steals coming into Saturday. One mark Freeman does not wish to reach is the record for times caught stealing in a season. Current Pirates second baseman Tony Womack was caught 25 times in 1992. Freeman has been nailed 23 times through Saturday. ... Reliever Brad Guy needs six more appearances to break the all-time Augusta record for games in a season. The record is 54, held by three players.
JOHNSON RELEASED: Outfielder Eric "E.D." Johnson was released by the Pirates last Saturday. The Vidalia, Ga., native batted .237 with one home run and 12 RBI in 76 at-bats with the Jackets. The 23-year-old signed with Pittsburgh in February after a brief stint last season in the independent Frontier League.
JACKETS ALUMNI: The Sarge is back.
Journeyman outfielder Erskine Kelley, who was released last winter by Pittsburgh after seven seasons in the organization, is third in the independent Northeast League in batting with a .349 average to go with 11 home runs and 34 RBI for the Allentown (Pa.) Ambassadors. ... Outfielder Jose Nicolas, who batted .199 for the Jackets this season, is batting .253 with five homers and 28 RBI at Erie. ... Eddy Furniss, who was sent down to high-Class A Lynchburg after a rough two weeks at Class AA Carolina, is up to .242 after batting .143 with no extra-base hits in his first 14 at-bats for the HillCats. ... After batting .203 in 1996 and .235 last season for the Jackets, Freddy May is fifth in the Carolina League in batting with a .295 average at Lynchburg. ... Right-hander Giancarlo Alvarado is 2-2 with a 5.89 ERA in nine appearances at Lynchburg.
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