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Fish count on Osuna's arm

Angling for wild-card spot with 6 weeks left to get it

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Returning to Manitoba after a long interleague swing that started in Quebec and ended in New York felt a bit strange for some Goldeyes.

But their three-series trip against CanAm League teams ended on a high after rumbling through some lows: Before coming home, the Fish took four of their last five, and won two of the jaunt's three series -- though to be honest, they figured the Trois-Rivi®res Aigles and Rockland Boulders were teams they should be beating.

Still, "should be" hasn't always turned into "did" this season, and getting the pistons firing is a good feeling.

"It was a rough start there, but a good end to the trip, for sure," Fish pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea said Monday, strolling the course at Bel Acres for the Goldeyes' annual golf tournament. (Fun fact: The lanky Vermilyea was a serious golfer once, before committing to baseball for college.)

'He knows how to pitch, and he's going to be a big addition for us'

-- Goldeyes pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea (right) on pitcher Edgar Osuna returning to the Fish

So here is where things stand, with six weeks left in the regular season: The Fish sit just shy of .500, with 29 wins next to 30 losses.

The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks are holding onto top spot in the North Division with a record of 38-24, and the Goldeyes sit in the middle of the pack for the wild-card playoff spot.

It's time for the team to give the best they've got.

"We're going to have to start winning some ball games, and a lot of them," Vermilyea said.

"It kind of starts with our pitching staff. We just need our starters to go deep in the games... The two days off (Sunday and Monday) will really help."

The Goldeyes who returned to Winnipeg for the golf tournament are somewhat changed from those who left.

While away, injuries tweaked the pitching staff. It started in the first game of the roadie against the Quebec Capitales, when starting pitcher Justin Garcia struggled with back pain through the first two innings of a miserable 10-1 loss. With four starters on the roster, few going deep and the bullpen already shouldering a load, the Goldeyes needed help.

Luckily, manager Rick Forney found it in a familiar face. Pitcher Edgar Osuna was with the Fish at training camp, the first Mexican national to wear a Goldeyes uniform, and the coaching staff hoped the 25-year-old southpaw would become their No. 2.

But Osuna, who was still working back into form after losing the 2012 season to surgery, wrestled with inflammation in his shoulder before the season started. Ultimately, the injury forced the Fish to let him go.

Good news: Right when the Goldeyes needed Osuna, he was good to go. On July 15, he hopped on a plane and shlepped up to Quebec to open the series against the Trois-Rivi®res Aigles, though the Fish fell 9-3 in that game. But he gave up only a single hit in four scoreless innings before a nightmare fifth plagued by two errors, 14 hits and all nine Aigles runs.

Osuna had a better showing in the last contest of the swing, a 4-3 win in Rockland on Saturday. He went seven innings without giving up a run.

It was a relief for a pitching staff under pressure. "It's big getting him back," Vermilyea said. "He knows how to pitch, and he's going to be a big addition for us. His first start, he did well, but obviously he had a little bit of nerves. Obviously, with his second start, he went seven innings and no runs, so he's going to be a big help."

Another dent in the roster: Last week, after a sparkling season in the bullpen where he went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in relief, lefty pitcher Allen Caldwell was released after a hurting arm started to fail. "It's tough," Vermilyea said. "Especially right now, we need all the arms we can get. I know Rick's working the phones for sure, so hopefully in the next day or two... "

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2013 D4

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