Originally created 05/19/00

GreenJackets top Shorebirds



It's easy to overlook Chris Warren.

There's his quiet, unassuming demeanor in the clubhouse. There's his no-nonsense style of play on the field.

Nevermind the flash and flair. The 23-year-old outfielder has been all business for the GreenJackets this season, and he quietly has been posting some rather loud offensive numbers.

Warren padded those numbers Thursday night in the Jackets' 9-3 victory over the Delmarva Shorebirds at Lake Olmstead Stadium, further distancing himself from what was an incredibly frustrating 1999 season.

"They (Red Sox) wanted me to come back here and put up some numbers after a rough year last year, and fortunately things are going well for me so far," said Warren, who entered the game sixth in the South Atlantic League in hitting and went 2-for-4 Thursday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games and raise his season average to .333.

"It was tough last year, and I think I learned a lot. I'm just trying to keep everything steady and not fall off the table like I did last year."

Including Warren, six GreenJackets had two or more hits to pace a 14-hit attack, which lifted Augusta to its 10th win in its past 14 games.

Center fielder Lew Ford went 3-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, while Cesar Saba, Carlos Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Kelly Ramos and Warren had two hits apiece. Saba had a double and three RBI, while Rodriguez collected a pair of doubles and two RBI.

The victory was the Jackets' second straight over Delmarva (21-20) to open the four-game series, and it moved them to within two games of the .500 mark (20-22) for the first time since beginning the season 2-2.

Starter Rick Riccobono rebounded from a rough outing Saturday in Macon, when he allowed six runs in three innings to take a no-decision in game the Jackets rallied to win 13-12.

Riccobono (4-3) allowed four hits, four walks and one earned run while striking out five in five innings for the victory, his fourth straight winning decision after an 0-3 start.

"The key for me was putting what happened in Macon out of mind immediately and focusing on my next start," the 20-year-old right-hander said. "We're playing good ball right now, and it's nice to see everybody getting it going."

None more so than Warren, a non-drafted free agent by the Red Sox in 1998, whose second go-round with the Jackets has proven much more fruitful than his Augusta debut last season.

"He just goes about his business," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said. "He's one of the guys that can make adjustments. You might get him out his first couple of at-bats a certain way, but then you see him make an adjustment at the plate. I think he has a hitting plan; that's what good hitters do."

In 153 at-bats with the Jackets last season, Warren batted .170 with five home runs, 16 RBI and 53 strikeouts before a demotion to short-season Class A Lowell in May.

He didn't fare much better against New York-Penn League pitching, batting .223 with five homers, 25 RBI and 69 strikeouts in 215 at-bats for the Spinners.

But since his arrival in Augusta this season, Warren has been one of the team's most consistent producers. He has hit safely in 34 of his 41 starts this season; leads the club in hits (49) and slugging percentage (.538), and is second in on-base percentage (.424).

"I know he struggled here last year, but he's been doing it all year for us," Riccobono said. "It's hard to overlook what he does on the field. He's a big part of the team offensively and is real solid in the field. He's a player."

During his 12-game streak, Warren is 21-for-44 (.427). He certainly should give the red-hot Ford a run for his money for SAL player-of-the-week honors.

"Things just didn't work out last year, so I went home and mostly just worked on the mental part of the game," the Fayetteville, N.C., native said. "I worked on focusing on working hard on every at-bat and on swinging the bat. I got down a lot last year confidence-wise, but I think this year I'm mentally stronger."

NOTES: Outfielder Jose Pena left the team during the recent four-game road trip in Macon and apparently has retired. When the Jackets returned to their hotel from Sunday's game, Pena already had left. When the team returned to Augusta on Tuesday, he had packed up his belongings and left without notice. Pena was placed on the suspended list by the Red Sox earlier this week. His whereabouts, Boulanger said, are unknown. The native of the Dominican Republic was batting .214 in 117 at-bats before his departure.

Infielder Patrick Santoro, who was placed on the disabled list last week with a sprained wrist, will leave today for Fort Myers, Fla., where he will begin rehab at the Red Sox's spring training facility.

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.

JACKETS TONIGHT

Vs.: Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles)

Where: Lake Olmstead Stadium

When: 7:05 p.m.

Probable starters: Delmarva -- RHP Mike Paradis (3-2, 3.57 ERA); Augusta -- LHP Wil Ledezma (1-1, 5.06).

Tickets: $7, $6, $5.

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