FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- The reigning American League saves leader made a surprise appearance for the Augusta GreenJackets in Game 1 of the South Atlantic League Championship series.
Boston Red Sox reliever Tom Gordon started for the Jackets and pitched one scoreless inning against Cape Fear before giving way to scheduled starter Greg Miller.
It was Gordon's second minor-league rehabilitation assignment in an attempt to return to the majors this season.
"I will be back this season, no doubt about it," said Gordon, who led the American League with 46 saves last season, and has been on the disabled list since June 14 with a strained elbow.
"They (Red Sox) may have shut me down but I never doubted that I was coming back this season. I just thank God I've been able to get to this point and, Lord willing, I will be back soon."
Gordon's cameo with the GreenJackets came on the heels of pitching one scoreless inning for Double-A Trenton in the Eastern League playoffs Saturday night.
With Trenton eliminated from the postseason on Monday, Jackets manager Billy Gardner got word from Boston that Gordon would be joining the team in Fayetteville on Tuesday.
Gordon walked Cape Fear leadoff man Derrick Urquhart, then gave up a weak single by shortstop Albenis Machado that trickled through the right side. He recorded an out when right fielder Angel Mendoza gunned down Urquhart at third base. Gordon struck out No. 3-hitter Thomas Pittman on three pitches and fanned Al Benjamin on four pitches to end the inning.
Gordon will return to Boston today and will likely pitch a simulated game on Friday before the Red Sox make the decision to activate him or to continue rehab.
"I want to be back next week," said Gordon, who wore No. 27 on Tuesday and threw 17 pitches, 10 for strikes. "I know I'm ready. We'll just have to see what they do."
Gordon admitted over the weekend that his relationship with the Red Sox has become strained. At a post-game press conference on Saturday, the 31-year-old right-hander said he is not happy with the way the team handled his injury and admitted that he and agent Rick Thurman plan to approach Boston general manager Dan Duquette about a trade.
"With some of the things that have happened the last couple of months, maybe I've worn out my welcome there," Gordon said. "I don't know. It's gotten to the point where I don't feel like I'm trusted and maybe we've grown apart in terms of the relationship between them and myself."
Gordon was transferred to the 60-day disabled list July. Reports out of Boston indicated that Red Sox team physician Dr. Arthur Pappas waited almost three weeks before informing Gordon he should not pitch again this season.
Tensions apparently heated when Gordon wanted to get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., but was told his contract would be voided if he did so.
Red Sox all-star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and pitcher Bret Saberhagen were permitted to see their respective doctors for second opinions on their injured arms.
The recent acquisition of closer Rod Beck from the Chicago Cubs has also made Gordon feel like his days in Boston are numbered.
"I don't know what the future holds, but right now I'm just focused on getting healthy and back as soon as I can," Gordon said. "I feel great. I'm just about ready to go."
There was no tension in the Augusta clubhouse Tuesday. The Jackets players were obviously thrilled for the chance to call Gordon a teammate, at least for one night.
"I am very excited to catch for him," said Jackets catcher Rudy Pena. We're all excited about playing in the championship, and this makes it more exciting. I'll remember this the rest of my life."
With Hurricane Floyd bearing down on the southeastern coast, the teams and SAL president John Moss held a conference call after Tuesday's game and decided to move the remainder of the series back an extra day.
The Crocs were unable to book a hotel in Augusta due to the influx of coastal evacuees but, even if they did find lodging, there was a strong possibility that tonight's Game 2 would have been a washout anyway.
Cape Fear also had difficulty finding a bus company that is willing to operate with the threat of hurricane conditions.
Moss was a surprise no-show at Tuesday's game, but discussed the situation at length on the phone with Crocs and Jackets officials.
"In the best interest of everyone for safety reasons, we're going to have to play it Thursday," said Jackets assistant general manager Scott Skadan, who attended Game 1.
"The Crocs can't get a bus company or any rooms in Augusta, so we really had no other choice."
Red Sox director of player development Kent Qualls is thrilled to have the chance to see the GreenJackets one more time this season.
"Obviously, I am pleased that Augusta is playing for a championship," said Qualls, who was with Double-A Trenton through the weekend and missed the Jackets' playoff series vs. Columbus and Hickory.
"I think it's extra special because this is the first year of our affiliation with Augusta. I spoke with (owner) Mike Savit yesterday (Monday), and he's also thrilled. It's been an outstanding year."
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