Augusta Team Report | April 19

San Francisco's system has always been famous for having a lot of pitchers. This year, Augusta's pitching staff is so loaded that the Giants have dictated the team double up starters. How is it working?

Last season, the GreenJackets had a stacked rotation that got a little pared out by injuries, but still led the team to a season-ending winning surge and a division title.

This year, the rotation could be even more stacked. But you can only have five players in a rotation right?

Maybe not.

The GreenJackets are toying with pairing up some of their back of the rotation guys into tag teams, of sorts. This move is reportedly because of orders from the big league club, but the move is understandable. Who do you take away playing time from with the Giants stacked list of pitchers? Nineteen-year old Clayton Tanner? Kevin Pucetas, who had a 2.17 ERA for Salem-Keizer?

The tag teams have each starter take turns actually starting. The plan is that one goes five innings, the other goes four. So far, the team has had five such tag team starts in 14 games. This isn't an unheard of move in leagues with many young players such as the rookie leagues, but it's not very common in higher levels, even in Low-A. So how has it worked out?

Well, the team has won all of them, but that's nothing new. But the tag teams have been more than effective.

The first team has been a combination of Tanner and Henry Sosa. Sosa, 21, was a starter mostly for the Arizona Rookie League team in 2006, with a 3.90 ERA. Tanner has not been pushed, so he has not gone beyond four innings in any of his outings and had the tag team's only truly poor outing in giving up four runs on three hits and four walks in his first start. But Tanner has picked up two wins in the relief role, including three shutout innings in Wednesday's 1-0 win against Columbus. Sosa, meanwhile, gave up a run in his first inning of work and hasn't given up another one since.

Combined, the Sosa-Tanner team has a 1.46 ERA in 24.2 combined innings, with 11 walks and 16 hits against 19 strikeouts.

The second tag team has been even more spectacular, however. That team is Pucetas and Robert Grace. Grace spent most of the past two years in the Rookie league, throwing just 52 2/3 innings. In two starts, neither Grace nor Pucetas has given up a run yet in 18 innings. They've walked just one and given up just 10 hits while striking out 18. Grace is due to make the start in their third outing on Thursday.

If these pitchers keep working like this, it will be interesting to see if the tag teams get broken up in the future. It's very possible that Dan Griffin, who returned to Augusta after an injury, could get a midseason promotion to San Jose. Adam Cowart may not be out of that discussion either. That would open up more spots in the rotation.

Until then, the GreenJackets will enjoy this surplus of pitching. While going 13-1 to start the year, the team's 1.68 ERA is by far the league leading best, by more than a full ERA point.

Player of the Week: Adam Cowart

With all this pitching, how can we not name a pitcher? Cowart gave up just one run in twelve innings over two starts, taking two wins and dropping his ERA back to 1.06 on the year. Cowart's six strikeouts in 12 innings (and 10 strikeouts in seventeen innings total) is down from last year, but he remains unhittable to opposing batters.

By The Numbers: 11

Eleven is the league record for stolen bases in a game. That happened in 1991, set by Macon. Last Friday the 13th, the team stole ten bases against the Charleston RiverDogs, which they won 10-4. All the bases were stolen by four players: three each by Brian Bocock and Mike McBryde, and two each by Marcus Sanders and Tyler Graham.

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