With starter Jerome Gamble on the disabled list with a sore elbow, and a slightly banged-up bullpen, the GreenJackets received some pitching help for the postseason.
On Monday, the Boston Red Sox assigned pitchers Tony Fontana and Chris Elmore to Augusta from short-season Class A Lowell, just in time for the opener of the South Atlantic League divisional playoffs series against the Columbus RedStixx.
Fontana, a 21-year-old right-hander, was selected by the Sox in the seventh round of the June draft out of Bowling Green. He went 5-4 with a 2.49 ERA in 14 appearances (11 starts) for Lowell.
The left-handed Elmore -- Boston's 17th-round pick in June out of the University of North Carolina -- went 3-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 15 appearances (10 starts).
"They're both college guys, so they should be able to help us out," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said.
Augusta had two open roster spots with Gamble shut down since last week and catcher Kregg Jarvais going on the DL with a wrist injury Monday. Teams can add players to their postseason roster, as long as they are coming up from lower-level farm clubs and not being sent down from higher-level teams.
The lone exception to that rule involves players on rehab assignments, as was the case last season when the Red Sox assigned major league pitcher Tom Gordon to the Jackets for the playoffs.
Boulanger laughed when he was asked if any big leaguers were Augusta-bound.
"Sure, they can send us Pedro (Martinez) if they want to," he said. "Heck, I'll even take Ramon (Martinez)."
The RedStixx ended the regular season with four straight rainouts at home, not exactly the scenario manager Ricky Gutierrez wanted heading into the postseason.
"We haven't played in four days, so that's not the best situation," Gutierrez said. "Hopefully, it won't hurt us too bad."
Actually, it didn't rain much at all in Columbus on Sunday or Monday, but poor drainage in the outfield at Golden Park rendered the playing surface unsafe.
Columbus, an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, won the Southern Division first half title with a 42-29 record, but lost 11 players to call-ups after the All-Star break. As a result, they stumbled to the second-worst record in the league in the second half at 25-41, and finished 67-70 overall.
Among the key losses were starting pitcher Steven Cowie (7-1, 3.39 ERA), and outfielders Tom Bost (.288, 8 home runs, 42 RBI) and Eric Johnson (.309-4-45). All three were promoted to high-Class A Kinston.
"It's not about keeping guys here all year, it's about developing guys," Gutierrez said. "We've got a lot of young kids who needed their at-bats, and we've gotten better as the season went on."
Because of the heavy rains in Columbus last week, and with the specter of more heavy rain hitting the area on Tuesday, there was talk of tonight's Game 2 being moved from Golden Park to Ragsdale Field on the campus of Columbus State University.
"If it's raining (Tuesday night) down there, there's no way we can play it at our park," Gutierrez said.
The RedStixx played the 1996 season at Ragsdale Field while Golden Park was being renovated. The RedStixx defeated Augusta in the divisional playoffs that season before falling to eventual champion Savannah in the second round.
SPENCER FOR HIRE:
Reliever Corey Spencer hasn't pitched in six days because of some soreness in his arm, but threw sidelines without pain Sunday and Monday and was deemed ready to go in Game 1 on Tuesday.
Spencer emerged as one of the top left-handed set-up men in the Red Sox system this season, going 8-2 with a 2.61 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings
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