Aaron Laffey displayed none of the normal sentiments of a starting pitcher being pulled after only 2 2/3 innings.
He trotted off the diamond like a child ambling from a candy store with a fist full of goodies. A pat on the back from Buffalo Bisons manager Torey Lovullo and several high fives from teammates as he clambered down the dugout steps with an ear-to-ear grin suggested only one thing: Laffey is headed to the Cleveland Indians.
No official statement has been released, but Lovullo admitted that his ace was being kept on a 50-pitch count, a protocol laid out by the parent club, which is in need of some bullpen help. Laffey's locker looked to be in the process of a major cleanout.
"He's been throwing the ball well, and he's got some consideration," Lovullo said. "Aaron Laffey is deserving of some consideration."
In his shortened stint in the Bisons' 3-2 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs on the front end of the doubleheader, Laffey (7-3) allowed two hits, including a solo home run by Syracuse's John-Ford Griffin, while striking out five in front of 8,522 at Dunn Tire Park. Bubbie Buzachero (3-3) followed, pitching 3 1/3 innings, allowing only a solo shot while fanning four to earn the win. Edward Mujica finished the job for the Herd, earning his 13th save. Buffalo's Ryan Mulhern doubled twice, once in the two-run fourth inning that proved to be decisive.
The second half of the twinbill proved less successful for the Herd, as the team fell, 6-2. John Koronka (0-2) took the loss, allowing six hits and five runs, three earned, through five innings.
Laffey entered Sunday's contest looking to tie the Bisons' record for most consecutive wins by a starting pitcher, having won his last seven decisions. He was entirely unaware of the arrangement to limit his arm.
"I had no idea," said Laffey, who threw 48 pitches after averaging 98 pitches over his last nine stars. "I got ready like a normal game, went out there and got through the first and second. I was throwing the ball well. The third inning came around, I got one out, and I started to hear the glove popping down in the bullpen [from Buzachero warming up], so I figured my pitch count was going to be cut short today.
"[Lovullo] came out and told me I threw the ball well and there's a situation going on right now. He said, 'Good job throwing, and Bubby is coming into the game.' "
Lovullo did say, however, that the pitch-count agreement had not been arranged prior to Laffey's originally-planned Saturday start, indicating a change in agenda had occurred in the last 24 hours. Lovullo declared if Laffey is bumped to the majors it will be in an Indians uniform and not as a result of a trade, saying the lefty is "not out of the organization at all."
Laffey was promoted to the Bisons from Double-A Akron on May 16 this season, four days after Adam Miller fell onto the disabled list with a strained tendon on his throwing hand. He hasn't lost since May 28 and has seen his ERA improve from an astronomical 14.54 after a 2 2/3 -inning outing, allowing 10 earned runs on May 22 -- to its current 3.24.
"Starting last year in [Single-A] Kinston, [Cleveland] felt so far away," Laffey said. "A year later I was in Akron, got moved up here and things kind of just took off. I let it happen, went with the flow. I'm riding it out and it's going pretty well for me so far."
If, in fact, Laffey is called up to Cleveland he will likely be used in middle relief. The role is a bit unfamiliar, as he has started 36 of his last 37 games and 91 of 109 in his career since being drafted in the 16th round by the Indians in 2003.
Starter or reliever? Bison or Indian?
So many questions remain unanswered for the 22-year-old, who Lovullo said "came off the radar screen."
Laffey will find out soon enough if he's expected to be in the clubhouse for the team's 6:05 p.m. doubleheader tonight against the Chiefs.
So will he have to restock his locker in the Bisons clubhouse after cleaning it out Sunday?
"I don't know right now. I'd like to say I hope not," he said, smiling and laughing. "I'd like to get the call, but as of right now I'm kind of in the dark and waiting to see what's going to happen."