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St. Francis grad Negrych joins Herd

The Toronto Blue Jays don’t see Jim Negrych as some sort of hometown token for their new relationship with the Buffalo Bisons. They need infield depth in Triple-A and perhaps even some backup help in the major leagues, so they signed the St. Francis product to a minor-league deal Tuesday.

“It’s always nice to know that you’re wanted and they reached out to me,” Negrych said after inking the contract in Pettibones Grille at Coca-Cola Field. “They said they were interested, we told them what we wanted and it was important to me to find out it wasn’t just to be in Buffalo. It was for my baseball ability, not for my hometown.

“They said if they were still in Las Vegas, they would be calling me. They had good reports from their scouts, positive things to say. When I heard all that news, their offer was more than fair for me. It was Toronto or Anaheim [the Los Angeles Angels] and I felt this was the best chance to reach my goals.”

Negrych, who will turn 28 on March 2, batted .264 with eight homers and 39 RBIs last year in 91 games at Syracuse of the Washington chain and went 1 for 2 in the Triple-A All-Star Game here in July. Negrych had 41 walks and only 40 strikeouts last season in 276 at-bats, and made just four errors while playing mostly second base. This will be his eighth year in the minor leagues.

“I had a better power season [with a career high in home runs], did more damage in that respect,” he said. “I had a chance to get my feet wet at this level and play all year but I didn’t actually do as well as I wanted to do. I set my standards pretty high but going out and competing and playing at the All-Star Game was great for me mentally.

“I just have to be more consistent. You have to get lucky sometimes, have things fall your way. I have to be consistent as a player. I have to focus on the present, be in that moment. I can be productive at the highest level if I’m doing my thing.”

The Blue Jays will be Negrych’s fourth organization. He spent his first five years with Pittsburgh, and his two-run homer accounted for the only scoring in Indianapolis’ 2-0 win over Buffalo here on June 17, 2010.

Negrych is particularly intrigued by the fact his contract gives him an invitation to major-league spring training.

And he’s not simply conceding he’s going to camp to get ready for the Triple-A season.

“They have good young players and they’re trying to win on the big-league level, so that’s exciting,” Negrych said. “… It’s going to be an exciting year, great to go to spring training, pick up things from those guys, watch them go about their business.”

Negrych knows he’ll have plenty of friends and family in the stands for Bisons games and hopes they get a chance to watch him one day in Rogers Centre.

Said Negrych: “If I get the call, I imagine the clan would get in the car and be up there pretty quickly.”