Originally created 07/09/02

Gamble helps Jackets win



Jerome Gamble was given enough run support to win two ballgames, but the Augusta GreenJackets starter wasn't around long enough to get one.

But at this point in his career, statistical victories mean very little to Gamble. Staying healthy and logging innings are all that matters right now to the 22-year-old right-hander.

"It's just good to be pitching again," Gamble said.

Good indeed. Making his fifth start following Tommy John surgery 14 months ago, Gamble took a promising step forward in his comeback. He tossed four innings of two-hit ball as the Jackets won their fifth straight game, 6-2, to complete a four-game sweep of the Asheville Tourists.

Augusta's 11-hit night was a team effort. Every starter had at least one hit, as the Jackets closed out the series outscoring the Tourists 23-7. The sweep is only their second this season and their first at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

Because a starter must pitch at least five innings to qualify for a victory, the win went to reliever Brett Rudrude (4-4), who held the Tourists to one hit in two innings of work.

But score another personal triumph for Gamble.

He mixed a fastball that touched 92 mph with an effective change-up and curveball, much like he did in his first tour of duty with the Jackets in 2000. The 1998 fourth-round draft pick worked ahead in the count and was economical with his pitches, needing only 56 in a season-high four innings.

A little more than one year after the ligament in his right elbow snapped, his low-90s velocity is an encouraging sign for the parent Boston Red Sox. Before the injury last May, in the third inning of his second start for high-A Sarasota, Gamble was pumping a fastball in the 93-94 mph range.

This season, he is close to his old form, throwing consistently in the 91-93 mph range.

"I was in Sarasota the day he got hurt, and it was nasty," Jackets manager Arnie Beyeler said. "He threw a breaking ball and grabbed his elbow and basically walked off the mound. That was it."

The injury threatened to end a career that is just taking off. With the Jackets in 2000, Gamble went 5-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 15 starts. He struck out 71 batters in 79 innings and cemented himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the organization.

Then came the surgery in late May. The procedure, pioneered by Dr. Frank Jobe and first performed on former major-league pitcher Tommy John in 1974, involves extracting a tendon from a pitcher's non-throwing arm and using it to replace the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm.

After 10 months of rehab, Gamble threw off the mound for the first time in late March. Even then, he didn't know if he would fully recover.

"But I looked at a lot of the other guys who've had that surgery and it gave me hope," said Gamble, who lowered his ERA to 1.71 this season. "I believed I could eventually get back to where I was."

Beyeler would agree.

"It's great to see him back because you see what he brings to the table," he said. "He's an athlete and has a nice easy arm action. The ball jumps on hitters and he has a nice, slow breaking ball that keeps guys off balance. Plus, he's a great kid who works hard.

GAME REPORT

Jackets 6, Tourists 2

TURNING POINT: The resurgent Jackets offense continued to get fat against Asheville pitching with a four-run third inning and a 6-0 lead.

BIG BAT: Right fielder Danny Figueroa went 2-for-3 with two RBI.

TOP GUN: Jackets starter Jerome Gamble, making his fifth rehab start following Tommy John surgery, held the Tourists to two hits in four innings.

FOR THE RECORD: WP - Brett Rudrude (4-4). LP - Zach Parker (9-5). Save - None.

AT THE LAKE: A crowd of 1,256 fans gives the Jackets 83,759 for 40 dates (2,094 average, eighth in the SAL).

ON DECK: After a day off today, the Jackets open an eight-game road trip Wednesday night against the Columbus RedStixx.

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.