Grady Fuson on roster moves

Ready can keep that smile now

The Fort Wayne Wizards suddenly got an influx of talented players to add to their already stable group of prospects, making them look formidable with the postseason looming. Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of scouting and player development, talked about the recent moves.

The sense of excitement in Fort Wayne can be felt as three top-ten picks from this season's MLB Draft have joined the squad.

"We are trying to give them reinforcements, a little more slug," Grady Fuson began, "while also giving them a taste of the next step."

Craig Cooper and Jesus Lopez made the trek to Clinton to meet up with the Wizards club. But Matt Antonelli and Chad Huffman had troubles at the airport and did not make the intended flight out.

Cooper will likely be in the rotation at first base to give Daryl Jones a blow and it will allow Jones to setup shop as the designated hitter, thus keeping his bat in the lineup.

With Abraham Aguilar and A.J. Davidiuk being shipped out, shortstop Jesus Lopez will be a fixture at shortstop to stabilize the defense up the middle.

"Seth Johnston is not moving around real well with that knee and we think it is still bothering him," Fuson revealed.

It could mean Matt Antonelli sees time at second base, keeping David Freese at third base and giving Johnston some rest.

"Antonelli is very sound defensively and offensively," said Fuson, who just returned from a three-day trip to Eugene. "He has a solid approach at the plate."

Huffman has the versatility to play all three outfield positions and will probably take at bats away from Josh Alley, Mike Baxter and Mike Sansoe. His bat may simply be too good to keep him out of the lineup.

With Fort Wayne leading the wild card race, the hope is they can make a move towards South Bend, the team that sits 3.5 games ahead of them with eight games to go. Their last four games, incidentally, are a home-and-home against South Bend. If they edge out South Bend in the standings they would face Lansing, a team that has gone 28-34 in the second half. Otherwise, provided they fend off Dayton, they will face West Michigan and their 41-21 second half mark – the same team that won the first half race.

Thus the reinforcements have been sent with Eugene eliminated from playoff contention this weekend, despite a 37-30 record that would place them one game out if they sat in the Eastern Division of the Northwest League.

"If Salem-Keizer hadn't won 41-of-42 Eugene would still be in it and we wouldn't have made these moves," Fuson said. "The goal had been to keep as many of these clubs competitive as long as you can. Development takes a back seat and now it is going for it and trying to win."

Fort Wayne can only smile at hearing that. They haven't won a playoff game since 2000 and have not won a playoff series while affiliated with the Padres.

Lake Elsinore is also in the playoff hunt, a half game back of Lancaster. Matt Buschmann was sent up from Eugene earlier this week to help offset the loss of Evan Meek. The rest of the roster remains largely the same, as they can't afford to take players from Fort Wayne to bolster their lineup.

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