Tony Fontana continues to answer the bell whenever the Augusta GreenJackets make the call.
Though he isn't content being the sixth starter in a five-man rotation, that hasn't stopped the 22-year-old right-hander from making the most of his opportunities to take the hill in the top of the first.
Making his fourth spot start of the year Monday, Fontana made another strong case for himself in his bid to crack a rotation at some point in his career. He allowed just one hit and no walks in five innings as the Jackets defeated the Delmarva Shorebirds for the second straight night, 2-0, at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"It's been pretty easy for me pitching in this role because I've always been a starter," said Fontana, the Boston Red Sox's seventh-round pick in 2000 out of Bowling Green. "If I do want to become a starter later on, I've got to make the best of every one of these spot starts I get."
After giving up a two-out single in the first to the Shorebirds' No. 3 hitter Alfredo Leon, Fontana set down 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. The only Delmarva batter to reach base against him after the first was Quincy Asencion, who reached on an error by shortstop Kenny Perez.
In four starts this season, Fontana is 1-1 with a 0.95 ERA, surrendering 13 hits and one walk with 18 strikeouts in 19 innings. In 20 relief appearances, he is 1-1 with six saves and a 2.31 ERA.
Overall, Fontana is 2-2 with a 1.94 ERA that leads the Augusta staff and is third-best in the South Atlantic League. He has walked just nine batters while striking out 62 in 69 2/3 innings of work.
"You don't always know what you're going to get with a spot start, but this was a very good spot start," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said. "Tony was outstanding. He's done real well."
The Jackets' bullpen was just as impressive. Relievers Brian Adams and Dan Giese combined to toss four shutout innings, nailing down the club's seventh combined shutout this season.
Adams gave up two hits in three scoreless innings. Giese wiggled out of a mini-jam in the ninth after walking leadoff man B.J. Littleton, closing it out for his fifth save. The walk was only Giese's fourth in 41 1/3 innings this season.
For the Jackets, the past two nights were a return to their roots.
A club that relied heavily on pitching during its run to the first-half Southern Division title has weathered some rocky pitching in the second half, but Augusta wrapped up its four-game series with Delmarva with two well-pitched contests. Mauricio Lara did not allow an earned run in six innings in the Jackets' 8-2 win in a rain-shortened six-inning contest Sunday.
"Tonight especially reminded me of the way we played in the first half," said Boulanger, whose Jackets made the most of their six hits, scoring twice in the first for the game's only runs. "How many times in the first half did we not have nine or 10 or 11 hits and won the game? Our pitching and defense was really good."
GreenJackets 2, Shorebirds 0
Player of the game: Making a spot start, his fourth of the year, right-hander Tony Fontana pitched five innings of one-hit ball to run his record to 2-2.
Turning point: The Jackets jumped on Delmarva starter Richard Bartlett in the first inning as Andy Riepe drove in a run and reached first base on an error by third baseman Alfredo Leon and Dustin Brisson laced an RBI-single to make it 2-0.
On deck: The Jackets are off today, then play two games on the road against the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs (Devil Rays) before returning home on Friday to open a four-game series against the Wilmington Waves (Dodgers).
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.