Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fish dump at-bat deadwood

Asanovich gets gate, Harrison saves job

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Someone had to go. Not surprisingly, it was the guy hitting .171 this season.

Josh Asanovich, a fixture at second base for the Winnipeg Goldeyes for the past season-and-a-half -- an eternity in the Northern League -- was issued his walking papers by Fish manager Rick Forney Thursday morning.

Asanovich's crime? A bat that clanged more than it cracked this season.

"He was struggling," Forney said, "and he wasn't showing any signs of coming around. We'd gone as far as we could go with him."

Asanovich was a victim of a numbers game -- and not just his own numbers.

With former major-league reliever Bobby Korecky returning to the Goldeyes lineup Thursday after a week in Florida to attend a family funeral, Forney found himself needing to jettison a veteran or LS-4 player to keep within Northern League roster rules.

Forney had two underachievers to choose from -- Asanovich or third baseman Vince Harrison, who'd also been mired in a terrible offensive slump.

But with the pressure on, Harrison has been exceptional the past week. He hit .400 in his last five games heading into last night and looks to have regained the form that has made him one of the best hitting infielders in the Northern League the past few seasons.

Harrison maintained last night that he had no idea his job was on the line this week, but agreed his troubles at the plate -- he'd been hitting below .200 for weeks -- had been weighing on him.

"That was the worst and longest struggle I've ever had as a professional," he said. "It's been testing, but I hope it also built a little character."

With Harrison safe at third, Forney filled the vacancy at second by plucking Price Kendall off the Goldeyes' inactive list.

Kendall, discovered by Forney at a Northern League open tryout camp in Arizona last spring, came to training camp with the Goldeyes but was placed on the inactive list before he saw any action.

A college player at Missouri Baptist in St. Louis, the 24-year-old Oakland native had never played in a professional baseball game before he started at second for the Goldeyes Thursday night.

"I've got a little bit of the jitters," Kendall said before the game, "but they're happy jitters. I'm focused, I feel good and I'm ready."

Forney said he was happy to reward Kendall for his patience in sticking around Winnipeg the past six weeks with no guarantee of a job.

"He's done everything we've asked of him -- catch in the bullpen, you name it," Forney said. "He deserves the opportunity."

Bobbling a grounder

Kendall had a difficult and at times amusing debut. He committed an error in the field, bobbling a grounder in the third inning off the bat of Rockford RiverHawks second baseman David Cooper, who later scored. And Kendall was hitless in his first three at-bats.

He did provide some comic relief, however. Goldeyes players are allowed to select the music they are introduced to as they walk to the plate, but Kendall's teammates selected the music for his first-ever pro at-bat -- Aqua's I'm A Barbie Girl.'

Kendall was laughing, as were his teammates, as he stepped into the batter's box for the first time.

While Asanovich clearly played himself out of a job with his bat -- he was actually getting worse as time went on, hitting just .053 in his last five games -- Forney still seemed genuine when he said the decision to take him off the roster was a difficult one.

"It was really hard," Forney said.

"He's a good person. I like Josh Asanovich. He busted his ass for us for a year-and-a-half. It's not easy."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2010 C6

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