Originally created 06/20/06

Jackets send standouts to All-Star Game

Mike Mooney is hard on himself. Anthony Contreras is a bit of a joker. Sergio Romo can't sit still.

Mooney is a power hitter. Contreras is more of a contact guy. Romo keeps opposing hitters from doing either.

What the California trio has brought to the Augusta GreenJackets' clubhouse are three different approaches, three different characters and three very different personalities.

But what each has brought on the field is the kind of solid, consistent effort that calls for recognition. It earned them selection to today's 47th annual South Atlantic League All-Star Game at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio.

In the outfield (Mooney), the infield (Contreras) and on the pitcher's mound (Romo), they have shined, helping Augusta (39-31) to a second-place finish in the first half of the Southern Division season.

"Romo has been huge for us all year, whether he's coming out of the bullpen or starting. He's given us a lot of innings," Augusta manager Roberto Kelly said of his do-everything right-hander.

"Mooney is his worst critic, sometimes too hard on himself," Kelly said. "And A.C., what I like about him is that he started sort of slow but he kept pecking away. ... I think all of them are deserving."

Man of emotion

A switch hitter with a fiery temperament on the field, Mooney leads the team in home runs (seven), total bases (120), on-base percentage (.363) and bats broken over knees (one).

"I'm quite emotional. I've always been that way," said Mooney, who is from San Francisco but whose mother is from Thomasville, Ga.

"I'm a really hard competitor, so it's hard for me to bottle up some of that stuff. But I think I've gotten better."

Mooney, the team's cleanup hitter, ranks second on the team in games played, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, slugging percentage and batting average.

From right field, he also is touted has having the best outfield arm among the San Francisco Giants' selections in last year's draft.

"(His personality) makes him elevate his game. He expects a lot of himself," Kelly said.

Mooney will represent Augusta in the home run derby, which precedes the 7:35 p.m. All-Star Game.

Clubhouse clown

Contreras, from Los Gatos, Calif. (near San Jose), leads the team in hits (77) and batting average (.321). He is seventh in the league in batting average and tied for fifth in hits.

While flashing a reliable glove at second base, shortstop or third base, Contreras said he's also liable to flash plenty of smiles.

"I joke around a lot," he said. "I try to keep things as loose as possible."

Contreras' success at the plate has been a bit of a surprise for the GreenJackets, and he said he is motivated by some scouts' assessment of him.

"You always want to prove people wrong," he said. "If anything, that kind of stuff - people wondering if you're ever going somewhere - motivates me. Plus, if you're not one of the top (prospects), you're not in the spotlight. It almost makes it more comfortable."

Kelly said Contreras struggled against left-handed pitchers early but has turned it around. He's hitting .293 against southpaws.

"It surprised me a little bit how good he's been swinging against lefties," Kelly said. He's picked it up and become a much better hitter."

An ace in any spot

Romo, from Brawley, Calif. (east of San Diego), has used a fastball and his patented "slurve" - a slider-curveball mix - to put together a 5-1 record with a 3.21 ERA.

He's 3-0 in three starts, has three saves and has allowed just 19 earned runs.

Romo expects a lot of himself and he tries to keep a loose profile, but he mainly just wants to be a part of the action.

"I'm very active," he said. "I'm not one to be sitting around. I'm always up doing something. It's the way I've been my whole life.

"I'll play a few jokes here and there, but I'm usually easy-going."

Romo has 55 strikeouts in 53q innings, with 14 walks.

"He's spot started a couple of times, and he did a heck of a job," Kelly said. "And if we didn't have him in the bullpen, God knows where we'd be."

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


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