Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Speedy Coles key addition

Fish have new weapon for upcoming stretch drive

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When the Winnipeg Goldeyes added outfielder Mike Coles on Monday, the first thing Jon Weber did was take Coles for lunch.

Weber, the team's clubhouse leader who has been battling an ankle injury for a month, can see the big picture for his team and Coles is part of it.

In true Winnipeg fashion, the restaurant he chose was closed for the holiday. But it was the thought that counted.

Coles, hitting .300, was acquired from the Gary SouthShore RailCats along with pitcher Chris Allen (3.32 ERA) in exchange for relief pitcher Dexter Carter. Goldeyes manager Rick Forney also released pitchers Craig James and Chris Zbin. Coles started in the outfield Monday night as the Fish pulverized the Sioux Falls Pheasants 20-16 at Shaw Park.

"When a player like Coles comes in, a player of his calibre and status, it's a sigh of relief. He knows how to play the game well, he plays the game hard and that's what we need," said Weber, the Goldeyes' designated hitter and sometimes outfielder.

"When you get to the end of the season like this, we're right there in contention, we're going to be there. It's a grind and we need all the help we can get.

"I wish I could be out there every day playing, but I'm not 100 per cent healthy. When I do get healthy, we could flip-flop in left and DH. We have something we can work with."

With 26 regular-season games left, the Goldeyes are now embarking on the greatest adventure of the 2012 American Association regular season. The Fish are chasing North Division leader Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and are 2.5 games up on the Kansas City T-Bones for the wild-card berth.

"It's about winning. I know they were close last year. My job is going to be to get on base and score some runs," said Coles, who had about an hour of sleep before arriving in Winnipeg. He was told about the trade Sunday after a RailCats' doubleheader. He was on a shuttle from Gary to Chicago at about 6 a.m. and on a plane to Winnipeg at 10 a.m. "It's just refreshing to come here. I feel like a change of scenery, the chance to make a difference, guys that I know, it's all here."

Coles, who has won four independent baseball championships, has previously played with infielders Yurendell de Caster in Fargo and Amos Ramon in Windy City of the Frontier League and knows infielder Price Kendall and catcher Luis Alen from their many games as opponents.

Forney said Coles can play all three outfield positions, has a high on-base percentage with the speed to "score from first on a double in the gap."

"We were playing with nine position players for a while and (pitcher Kaohi) Downing was our extra guy so we went about as far as we could go with that," said Forney.

Weber, Kendall, de Caster, outfielder/catcher Kyle Day and Alen are all battling nagging injuries.

"We were looking for an impact guy, Mike was available and their best reliever was available. Unfortunately we had to sacrifice a good pitcher (Carter) to do that," Forney said. "We've been spinning our wheels with health issues. It's hard to play at the level we need to keep pace. Mike's got a little edge to him. He's a winning player and I expect him to be a difference-maker in our lineup."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2012 D5

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