Originally created 06/14/06

Jackets' need for speed is paying off in a big way



Manager Roberto Kelly wasn't kidding around when he said in April that the Augusta GreenJackets were going to run a lot this season.

Through 64 games, Augusta is second in the South Atlantic League with 108 steals, or about 1.7 stolen bases per game. The league leaders are the Asheville Tourists, who have stolen 144 bases in 63 games, an average of almost 2.3.

However, the GreenJackets steal more efficiently. Asheville has been caught stealing 65 times (a 69 percent success rate), compared with 34 for Augusta (76 percent).

Kelly attributed that to his playing days as a runner, and coach Andy Skeels' as a professional catcher.

"The game dictates it, sometimes the count. You're really just trying to pick the right time," Kelly said. "I think our baserunning could be better, but we're still working with these kids. They're doing a pretty good job."

Some players have the freedom to steal on their own and some have what Kelly called "the yellow light."

"We're running regardless," Kelly said. "Obviously it depends on the pitcher and the catcher, but we're going to run pretty much all the time."

Antoan Richardson leads the team in steals with 28. Eugenio Velez has 24, Mike Mooney has 15 and Ben Copeland has 13.

"When I get on base, I start picking my spots," Richardson said. "You want to get to second with less than two outs so there's a better chance of someone driving you in. It's not so much about the count for me, but you probably want to get to second early in the count if you can. And obviously, you want to try to pick a spot where they won't pitch out."

shaping up: Shairon Martis, one of the Giants' top pitching prospects, is set to start Thursday's series finale against Rome.

Martis, who threw a no-hitter for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic as an 18-year-old this spring, missed a month earlier this season with tendonitis in his right biceps.

He returned to the starting rotation May 15 and has worked his pitch count back up.

Throwing a fastball, slider, changeup and, "once in a while" a curveball, Martis has allowed four earned runs in his past

10w innings.

In the numbers: Anthony Contreras'.330 batting average has him seventh in the league. He had hit in seven games in a row before Tuesday. Lexington's Ole Sheldon leads the league with a.344 average.

Contreras' 72 hits are good for third in the league, six behind leader Brad Corley, of Hickory.

Augusta's Ryan Shaver and Joe Martinez are tied for fifth in innings pitched with 76.

Augusta is the league's fifth-best hitting team (.265 average) and ranks ninth in ERA ( 3.90).

Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or steven.l.sanders@augustachronicle.com.