Inside Baseball: Ex-Herd players called up to Blue Jays fit right in - The Buffalo News
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Inside Baseball: Ex-Herd players called up to Blue Jays fit right in

TORONTO — In the same week the Bisons and Blue Jays extended their agreement through 2016, there were instant benefits being reaped on the other end of the QEW. Pretty interesting to watch the Blue Jays beat the Yankees with names like Kevin Pillar, Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra, Ryan Goins and Todd Redmond all making huge contributions.

And the ex-Bisons figure to get plenty of playing time the rest of the way. Especially if you’re from Buffalo, there will be a few things to watch at Blue Jays games in September other than the spectacular light shows you see on the CN Tower when the Rogers Centre roof is open.

“They’re young, energetic and extremely talented guys and it doesn’t surprise me at all the way they went about their jobs here that they’re having success up there,” said Bisons manager Marty Brown. “It’s nice to see. That’s why I still do this job. It’s great, a big part of it.

Goins tied the franchise record for a hitting streak from the start of his career by hitting in his eighth straight game Saturday. He’s been the big revelation so far at the plate and at second base, where he’s putting in a big claim for a full-time job there next season after spending his Triple-A year at shortstop.

“He’s playing great in all areas,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Goins, who is aptly nicknamed “Go-Go” by teammates. “Name it. Defense, offense. He’s in tune with things. He doesn’t look in awe here.”

“He met the challenges defensively. He put in a lot of time and effort in showing me and everybody else that he can play shortstop,” said Brown. “He really proved to everybody he can do that because he can play the other position in his sleep.”

Goins’ big-league debut was in Houston and the Texan had plenty of family and friends in Minute Maid Park to see his first big-league hit.

“It’s good to get the first one out of the way as soon as possible,” he said. “I did it in my first game, which was good and I had a lot of family there so it was great.”

Regular Blue Jays observers said Wednesday night’s gem that saw Gose fire to Goins for a relay home to nail Alex Rodriguez at the plate was one of the top plays there all season — until Goins dove to short right field to snare a grounder for the final out Friday. Fundamentals have not been a Blue Jays strength thus far but Goins has really helped in that area.

Pillar, meanwhile, had a good laugh when talking about Goins’ play — and when recounting the story of his first big-league home run to this corner. It also came during the Houston series but was a disputed play upheld on replay.

Pillar was stuck at second and then waved home when it was ruled the ball had cleared a yellow line in left. What made it really unique was the fact plate umpire Bill Miller handed Pillar the ball as a keepsake just as he crossed home plate. (The video is posted on the Inside Pitch blog at

“I was expecting I might get the ball if the pitcher threw it back or if it went in the stands, we’d get it back,” Pillar said. “It kind of caught me off guard. He just flipped it to me as I was crossing the plate and I held it and I’ve never had that happen before. It wasn’t something I asked for. It just happened, caught me off guard. It was really kind of him to do that.

“All the umpires up here have been really good to the young guys, congratulating us on first hits, first games, talking to us behind the plate about where pitches were at.”

Pillar said he had a moment with himself in left field during the Yankees series reflecting on where he and his teammates had come from.

“It’s the first inning and I looked around and I saw the three Buffalo outfielders out here,” he said, referring to himself, Gose and Sierra. “Go-Go was at second, Brett Lawrie is still under 25 too. That’s kind of special to have that many young guys out there. It was definitely a cool moment to be out there with guys you came up with and here you are in the big leagues playing the Yankees. It’s pretty cool.”

The kind of moments the Bisons hope to see many more of.

“I know talking to our fans, too, a number of them had not been to Toronto in a long time, to a game in Rogers Centre,” said Herd general manager Mike Buczkowski. “Now they had a reason to go back, to rediscover Toronto, to see the players who started and played here. Hopefully that part of the partnership will keep growing.”

Rose to join Machine

The Reds have announced that all eight position players from the Big Red Machine World Series champions of 1975-76 will appear at Great American Ball Park for the first time this weekend as part of Joe Morgan Weekend to unveil a statue honoring the Hall of Fame second baseman.

Commissioner Bud Selig has given his approval for Pete Rose to appear at the ceremony along with the rest of the lineup the team dubs “The Great Eight.” The players include Rose, Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Ken Griffey Sr. and Cesar Geronimo.

There will be a postgame ceremony after Friday’s game against the Dodgers, and the statue dedication/pregame ceremony prior to Saturday’s game.

Diamond dust

• I’ve asked around on Matt Harvey’s elbow injury and a couple scouts told me they felt there was no way a guy could continue to throw sliders and other off-speed pitches in the low 90s and not come up injured. Simply too much stress on the elbow. What a blow for the Mets’ grand plan of competing in 2014. Given some tinkering this winter, that was totally realistic. Now? Not so much.

• I’m OK with the Blue Jays keeping Gibbons for next season. GM Alex Anthopoulos has to get him better starting pitching but Gibbons has to run a tighter ship as well. Especially in spring training. Pitchers have to work more, players have to play more and guys need to tighten up defensively if this team is going to succeed.

• Former Bisons manager Eric Wedge on what doctors told him prior to his return to the Mariners dugout last week after a mild stroke: “They made it very clear, they marched them in there one by one before I left the hospital to let me know just how serious this was and how serious I needed to take this. It’s a shot across the bow, it’s a mulligan, it’s a heads-up. And I’m taking it as such.”

Wedge said he is making changes to his diet and exercise regimen and is getting treatment for severe sleep apnea that had caused him oxygen deprivation.

• The Yankees are keeping a close lid on details for Mariano Rivera’s going-away celebration prior to the Sept. 22 visit by the Giants but the New York Daily News is speculating Metallica will be on hand for a live performance of “Enter Sandman,” Rivera’s long-time entrance music. The band is playing the famous Apollo in Harlem the night before at the end of a tour. Hmmmm.

IL items

• My annual complaint: The Bisons make a ton of money on the National Chicken Wing Festival and I know it’s probably never leaving Coca-Cola Field on Labor Day weekend because it’s simply become too popular and too profitable.

That said, I hate the fact the team guarantees itself road games on the final four days of every season in perpetuity because the ballpark is in use. Home games in the stretch run of a playoff drive would sure be nice and would certainly draw fans over Labor Day weekend, too.

• My annual complaint II: The locked-in playoff format stinks with the wild-card team always playing the North Division winner. Buffalo and Rochester thus can never — as in never ever — meet in the Governors’ Cup final.

• Toledo radio announcer Jim Weber worked his 5,000th consecutive game last week in Louisville. Weber, 68, has been the Mud Hens’ voice since 1975 and has been on air without interruption since 1985. He is the senior broadcaster in the International League.

• The Charlotte Knights are closing down Knights Ballpark, their rundown facility across the border in Fort Mill, S.C. The final game is Monday against Gwinnett and the top White Sox affiliate moves to BB&T Ballpark in downtown Charlotte next season.


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