Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Reshuffling the deck

Blackwood's return to lineup forces Sadler's exit from Fish

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It's just no fun for a baseball player to be sidelined with injury, especially not when the rest of the team is busy making history.

So yeah, Goldeyes infielder Jake Blackwood is happy to be back in action. "It's relieving," Blackwood said on Thursday, the day the Fish announced he was coming off the disabled list.

"You get a little complacent sometimes when you're on the DL. It's just very monotonous, you don't get to do a whole lot. So it's nice to get back in the lineup."

Let it be said that Blackwood isn't an injury-prone guy. In fact, this is just the third time the 28-year-old has been sidelined in his career, including nine pro seasons. It was just one of those accidents: during a game in Quebec City earlier this month -- his cleat caught funny as he slid into home. He rolled his ankle, it hurt like the dickens, and there was nothing to do but give it time to heal.

"I've been able to play through rolled ankles before," said Blackwood, who was batting .263 with a .313 on-base percentage before the injury. "You play sports long enough, you're gonna have a rolled ankle. But this one was too severe. For about five or six days, I couldn't even stand on it. It was pretty rough."

It could have been worse. Still, Blackwood missed 15 games -- and 11 of those just happened to be the Goldeyes' franchise-record win streak. What a time to go down. "It was definitely tough, sitting there knowing that I couldn't play," he said. "At the same time, it was fun to watch. I'm excited to get in there, and hopefully start a new one."

But Blackwood's return left manager Rick Forney in something of a quandary. When Blackwood went down, the Goldeyes skipper inked experienced second baseman Brock Bond, a savvy hitter with plenty of career numbers to show he gets on base.

But American Association rules only allow so many players of their experience level on the roster. So when Blackwood came back, that meant that one of them had to go.

This time, the odd man out was outfielder Ray Sadler, one of the team's most powerful hitters.

So, just the morning after Sadler knocked one out of Shaw Park in a 9-2 loss to the Sioux City Explorers -- it was his 10th homer of the season -- Forney traded him back to the Kansas City T-Bones, where the Goldeyes had grabbed him one year ago.

"I really didn't have much flexibility as to what I wanted to do," Forney said Thursday. "You got rules and regulations in this league you gotta adhere to. It was not an easy decision. It was tough. I love Ray Sadler, he's a pro."

With Sadler gone, Forney put Josh Mazzola back in the outfield, kept Bond at second and slid Blackwood over to third base (he'll also probably spend some games as designated hitter). That's a comfortable spot for Blackwood, who played most of his career at third. Oddly enough, though, he feels like he plays a bit better with the view from second.

"You're looking at the hitter from a totally different angle," he said. "The way the ball comes off the bat it's much different, the spin is much different. So it'll take a little bit of getting used to, back in that mentality of the third baseman, but I'm not too worried about it."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2014 C4

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