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Reyes laying over in Buffalo for a weekend

Jose Reyes is coming to Buffalo on his road back to Toronto. It’s exactly the kind of news the Bisons hoped to hear when they signed up to join the Blue Jays’ minor-league system last fall.

The four-time All-Star shortstop, on a rehab assignment from a severe ankle sprain suffered in April, completed his work at Class A Dunedin on Wednesday afternoon and will fly to Toronto today. He will then be driven to Buffalo and will be in the Bisons’ lineup for at least three straight games against the Durham Bulls in Coca-Cola Field, beginning Friday night at 7.

Reyes is also scheduled to play for the Herd on Saturday night at 6 – tickets are already at a premium because of the previously scheduled Star Wars Night promotion – as well as Sunday at 1. The Blue Jays will then evaluate Reyes to see if he will stay in Buffalo for Monday night’s series finale with the Bulls or return to the big leagues. Durham, the South Division leader, swept Buffalo in a four-game set last month.

The Cleveland Indians often sent big-name players here on rehab but the New York Mets rarely did. The Bisons implored the Blue Jays to change that and Toronto sent down pitcher Josh Johnson earlier in the season. Reyes is undoubtedly the top position player to suit up for the Herd since Cleveland outfielder Manny Ramirez visited for five games in 2000.

“It’s one of the big benefits of being so geographically close,” said Bisons General Manager Mike Buczkowski. “Now you have one of their top players who can fly from Dunedin to Toronto, then just drive down to Buffalo to play in his games. You look around minor-league baseball and it’s the Triple-A teams that get the marquee players. It’s great for us and will be great for our fans that we’re on that list now too.”

Buczkowski said late Wednesday afternoon there are only 3,500 tickets left for Saturday’s game and the team announced early Wednesday evening that four-packs for the game are sold out. There are also fewer than 9,000 tickets left for Friday night’s game. So with good weather and strong sales expected to Canadian fans, the team could certainly sell more than 40,000 tickets for the three games Reyes is scheduled to be here.

Reyes, acquired last November in the blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins, was batting .395 in 10 games with Toronto before he was injured sliding into second base in a game at Kansas City. He went 5 for 12 in three games with Dunedin, going 2 for 4 in Wednesday’s 8-4 win over the Tampa Yankees that allowed the Dunedin Blue Jays to clinch first place in their division for the first half of play in the Florida State League.

“He’s a pretty special player,” said Bisons manager Marty Brown, who saw plenty of Reyes during spring training. “It’s tough to throw the ball by him. He’s so competitive, brings a lot of energy to the clubhouse. He’s a pretty special guy. Everybody was excited about having him and it was unfortunate he got hurt. It’s part of the game but it’s too bad because he was a main cog in that whole winter and then all of a sudden you lose him for an extended period of time.”

In 11 big-league seasons with the Mets, Marlins and Blue Jays, Reyes has a .292 average with 1,499 hits and 415 stolen bases. He has led the National League in triples four times and stolen bases three times.

The Blue Jays want Reyes to play nine innings in at least one of his games here. Regular shortstop Ryan Goins will come on to replace him or Brown may use Goins a little at second base.

“Jose is the type of guy who leads by example on the field,” Brown said. “His professionalism and work ethic is what I saw in the spring. Any time you take a piece of the puzzle that has that much professionalism and plug it into your clubhouse, it’s definitely a positive in all aspects.”