Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Long gone and Fish short

MLB's Marlins buy Goldeyes' star shortstop for farm team

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It couldn't have happened to a more deserving ballplayer -- or at a worse time for his team.

The Winnipeg Goldeyes were left with a gaping hole in their infield Friday when the Florida Marlins purchased shortstop Wes Long's contract and immediately assigned them to their single-A affiliate, the Grasshoppers in Greensboro, N.C.

The second-year Goldeyes player was having an all-star season this summer and was arguably the team's MVP this year, hitting .323 with 41 RBI in 69 games.

"I think you could say that he is the heart and soul of our team," Goldeyes hitting coach Tom Vaeth said.

But it's the timing of Long's departure that stings worst for his former teammates, coming as the Northern League playoff race starts to heat up and in the same week the club was dealing with a middle-infield void created when second baseman Price Kendall broke the middle finger of his throwing hand in a game in Gary last Tuesday.

The broken finger will almost certainly keep Kendall, who was having a sensational rookie season, out of the lineup at least through the regular season, which ends Sept. 5.

Just hours after the Fish announced Kendall's replacement -- Patrick Brooks, 24, who most recently hit .212 in 19 games with the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association this summer -- they issued the second news release of the day about Long's signing.

Although Long, 28, is ecstatic to be back with a major league organization for the first time since 2006, he said he also felt badly to be adding to the Goldeyes' problems just when they looked like they had jelled in going 7-3 on their most recent road trip and were about to embark upon a critical 10-game homestand.

"I've got so many close friends on the team and guys that really mean a lot to me," Long said Friday. "It hurts a little bit. I feel the team had just started to come together and at the best time too, with playoffs coming.

"But it's been a long time coming. I've played a long time in independent ball. I've been grinding away and this is my reward, I guess."

Long said there are 30 games left in the Grasshoppers' season and he's only been promised that he will be an everyday player.

"I've got 30 games to show what I can do. I'm just going to go and do what I always do and just play hard and do the best I can," he said. "That will be good enough for me. Maybe it will be good enough for them."

Long is the first Goldeyes position player to be signed by an organization midway through a season since Bryon Myrow and Luis Ortiz were picked up in 2001, but he's the second Goldeyes player signed away this summer, after pitcher Mark Holliman.

The player moves forced upon the Goldeyes come as manager Rick Forney is at home in Maryland tending to a family matter this weekend. That's left Vaeth to work the phones trying to replace Kendall, and now Long.

The need to fill the hole is urgent. With the Goldeyes carrying just 20 healthy players on their roster -- 11 of them pitchers -- their bench strength for Friday night's game against the Kansas City T-Bones consisted of tonight's scheduled starting pitcher, Chris Salamida, who played some outfield in college.

All the moves forced the Fish to revamp their infield, with Brooks inserted at shortstop, outfielder/first baseman Kevin West playing second base, catcher Luis Alen playing at first and utility man Brett Wallace catching.

Fish 5, T-Bones 4

THEY played the game against the best team in the league without their regular second baseman, shortstop or manager. And to make matters worse, they spotted the visitors a four-run lead.

You would have thought the result would be predictable.

But there was nothing predictable about what happened at Canwest Park Friday night as the battered and depleted Winnipeg Goldeyes overcame a lousy start and the absence of three of their key members to hang a 5-4 10th-inning victory on the league-leading Kansas City T-Bones.

Third baseman Vince Harrison provided the heroics, stroking a bases loaded one-out single to left field that allowed outfielder Kevin West to jog home with the most unlikely of game winners.

Playing without second baseman Price Kendall (injury), shortstop Wes Long (signed by Marlins) and manager Rick Forney (family matter), Goldeyes starter Jason Mackintosh got into all kinds of early trouble and the Fish found themselves down 4-0 through four innings.

But the Fish put together a three-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning and then rallied for the game-tying run in the ninth inning to set the stage for Harrison's game-winning single. Harrison finished the night 1-4, with a walk, a run and two RBI.

The win was the fourth in the last five games for the Goldeyes, who were the playing the first game of a critical 10-game homestand. The two teams play the second of a three-game series tonight at Canwest Park.


-- Wiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2010 D3

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