Jerome Gamble could have been the one headed out the door of the clubhouse Friday afternoon, what with his live arm, his big-league stuff and the physical makeup scouts love.
But when the Boston Red Sox finally pulled the trigger on a trade that has been in the works for weeks, Gamble surprisingly still was a Boston farmhand, still in an Augusta GreenJackets uniform, and still gearing up to make the start at home against Piedmont on Friday.
While the Red Sox expect big things from the 20-year-old right-hander, Gamble's latest likely outing won't make the San Diego Padres immediately regret their decision to take Dennis Tankersley instead of him in Friday's deal that sent third baseman Ed Sprague to Boston.
"I've heard all the rumors around here lately," said Gamble, who allowed four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings while walking a season-high four batters, as Piedmont defeated the Jackets 5-2 in the opener of a three-game series at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"I was surprised when I heard the news on the trade. I thought it would be me."
Making his second start in Augusta in the past six days, Piedmont's Brett Myers tossed eight solid innings to improve to 9-2, which ties him with two others for the league lead in victories.
Myers, a first-round pick of the Phillies in the 1999 draft, did not allow an earned run and scattered seven hits. Though he walked five batters, he managed to escape several jams, aided by three double plays and two successful pick-off plays.
Left fielder Marlin Byrd and right fielder Jorge Padilla each had three hits to pace Piedmont's 13-hit attack.
But the story of the day was the deal, in which Boston sent Tankersley and highly-touted shortstop Cesar Saba to the Padres for Sprague.
With scouts from several major league clubs, including the Padres, following the Jackets the past few weeks, the players and coaching staff have anxiously been awaiting the inevitable.
Boston had been in the market for a third baseman since John Valentin went down with a knee injury in late May, and the Sox also have been mentioned as players in the Sammy Sosa sweepstakes.
Judging by the presence of scouts from the Padres and Cubs, it was clear the wheels were in motion.
Gamble had consistently been mentioned in those rumors. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the Alabama native's 94 mph fastball and an above-average curveball.
The Red Sox, though, held on to the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Gamble, who fast is becoming one of the organization's most coveted lower-level pitching prospects.
"I'm glad it happened the way it did," said Gamble, Boston's third pick in the 1998 draft. "I don't want to be traded. I'd like to stay with the Red Sox."
"He's going to pitch in the major leagues one day," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said. "He had that kind of stuff. He had good stuff tonight, but he just didn't have the command he needed."
Although the loss dropped his record to 0-2 while his ERA swelled to 3.64, Friday marked the first time in six starts this season Gamble has allowed more than two earned runs or more than five hits in one outing.
Down by three, the Jackets had their chance to spare Gamble a loss when they threatened against reliever Mark Outlaw in the bottom of the ninth inning. After a one-out double by Stephen Minus, Chas Terni walked and Lew Ford was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
But reliever Matt Bailie came on to pitch for Outlaw, and he struck out Jon Anderson to end the game and nail down his fourth save.
NOTES: Right fielder Carlos Rodriguez was named the South Atlantic League batter of the week on Friday. Rodriguez batted .438 with three home runs, 12 RBI, a .781 slugging percentage and a .486 on-base percentage in eight games this past week, raising his season average to .290 with nine home runs and 49 RBI entering Friday's game. ... On Thursday, the Red Sox assigned infielder Mike Gambino to Augusta. Gambino went 1-for-3 in his Jackets debut Thursday in Columbus and grounded out to second base as a pinch hitter for Kelly Ramos in the ninth inning on Friday.
Vs.: Piedmont Boll Weevils (Phillies)
Where: Lake Olmstead Stadium
When: 7:05 p.m.
Probable starters: Piedmont -- RHP Brad Pautz (1-1, 3.00 ERA); Augusta -- RHP Eric Glaser (4-5, 4.23).
Tickets: $7, $6, $5.
Promotion: The first of two straight nights of post-game Fourth of July fireworks.
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