Augusta, GA- The San Francisco Giants have assigned 25 players – 12 pitchers, three catchers, six infielders and four outfielders – to Augusta to begin the 2009 South Atlantic League season. These players, along with new manager Dave Machemer, new pitching coach Steve Kline and returning hitting coach Lipso Nava are preparing to begin the 2009 campaign in Savannah on Thursday April 9th.
The Greenjackets dropped their season opener, 3 to 0 to Savannah
Thursday night. They will play the Sand Gnats again Friday in Savannah.
“I think we’ve got a good group of young players because they pull for each other, they’ll be fun to watch and they’ll play hard every night,” said Machemer. The veteran minor league skipper will replace Andy Skeels, who has moved on to manage the San Jose Giants in the California League after leading the GreenJackets to the South Atlantic League Championship last season.
Machemer plans to hand the ball on Opening Night to right-hander Kyle Nicholson, a 7th round draft pick in 2007 out of Texas A&M University. Last season with the rookie league Giants in Scottsdale, Arizona, Nicholson led the staff with a 6-1 record and a 1.15 ERA in 62.2 innings of work. His 54 strikeouts led the team. The six-man rotation will be rounded out by lefty Ari Ronick, righties Kelvin Marte and Mike Loree and southpaws Eric Surkamp and Aaron King.
The bullpen consists of righties Justin Fitzgerald, Shane Kaufman, Eric Stolp, Trey Webb and Chris Wilson as well as left-hander Daniel Runzler. Wilson is projected to be the staff’s closer after leading the Arizona rookie league Giants with six saves a year ago, while Webb and Fitzgerald are also expected to get the ball in late-inning situations.
Matt Klimas and Johnny Monell are expected to share the bulk of the work behind the plate with Joel Weeks backing them up. Klimas hit .237 in 29 games with the GreenJackets a year ago before his season was derailed by injuries. Monell was drafted in the 30th round in 2007 while Weeks was a free-agent signee in 2008 who joined Augusta for the post-season after appearing in 33 games in the Arizona league.
The starting infield is expected to have returner Charlie Culberson making a position switch from middle infield to third base, Ehire Adrianza at shortstop, Juan Perez at second base and CJ Ziegler sharing time at first base with Mike Loberg. Ziegler and Loberg will also see action as the team’s designated hitter. Adrianza is the nephew of Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Perez was an outfielder in college and will be making the switch to second base this season. Josh Mazzola will round out the infield. The everyday third baseman last year for the Arizona League Giants, Mazzola can also play first base and the corner outfield positions and is a candidate to see time there as well.
The starting outfield consists of two returners and a newcomer. Left fielder Wendell Fairley will join 2008 GreenJackets Francisco Peguero and James Simmons, who will play center and right field respectively. Peguero “can throw with anyone in the league,” says manager Machemer. Ben Woodbury will also figure into the outfield mix this season for the ‘Jackets.
Rounding out the 2009 roster are trainer LJ Petra and strength coach Abe Gonzalez.