He sprinted to the right field wall, trying to make the inning-ending play. But the ball got caught up in the infamous winds off Lake Erie, the ones that can turn a routine fly into a circus adventure of twists and turns and dives. The ball sailed over the head of Dalton Pompey. And then Pompey crashed into the wall.
That’s the kind of season the outfielder has been having for the Buffalo Bisons.
Pompey went down and stayed down. Trainer Voon Chong came out to check on him. After some time, Pompey got up and walked off on his own power, even jogging the final few yards into the dugout. But his day was done after an inning and a half Monday at Coca-Cola Field.
“No idea,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said when asked the status of Pompey after the Bisons’ 5-4 12-inning loss to the Columbus Clippers. “Didn’t have time to even go see him there. I think it was more precautionary. He came in the dugout, said he was all right, just banged his knee against the wall. But they’re just going to be safe and do a test on him,” Tuesday. “Hopefully just day to day.”
Pompey has been dealing with the injury bug this season. He missed the first five games with an injury to his left toe, then an injury to his left heel kept him sidelined a total of 12 more games.
“You know it is what it is,” Allenson said. The crash into the wall was “probably a makeup for the first play right there. Long run and the wind was blowing in. The guy obviously hit it really well.”
The “first play” Allenson alluded to was an error by Pompey earlier in the second inning. He ran in to field a short fly to center, but dropped the ball. That started a rally for the Clippers, who scored four unearned runs after that error, starting with a three-run double by Erik Gonzalez.
Then came the play against the wall. That was a two-out hit by Tyler Naquin that scored Gonzalez. With Pompey on the ground, Naquin tried for an inside-the-park home run. But right fielder Junior Lake recovered the ball and relayed it to second baseman Andy Burns, who made a perfect throw for catcher Tony Sanchez for the tag at the plate.
“Right when it happened, there’s still a baseball play going on,” Burns said. “You kinda focus on finishing the play and try to figure out what happened after. He almost had an inside-the-parker but Junior ended up getting it in and we got him at the plate and then you realize,” Pompey “wasn’t getting back up. So you hope for the best and hopefully it’s nothing that’s going to keep him out for too long. It was a heck of an effort. I was surprised he came that close to it, to be honest.”
Burns, who had made three great plays at second base in the first two innings, got a firsthand taste of the outfield winds for the rest of the game. With Pompey out, Allenson made a four-player defensive shuffle, moving Burns to left field, Lake to center field and Domonic Brown to right field. Alexi Casilla, who started the game at short, moved to second and Jio Mier entered the game at short, taking Pompey’s spot in the batting order.
Over the last two seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, Burns has evolved into a utility player. This year he has 23 starts in the middle of the infield, five at third base and 11 in the outfield. He’s still getting accustomed to the rhythm and feel of the outfield, but Burns tends to shrug off change and roll with what the game brings him.
“For me, it’s no different than showing up to the park and seeing that I’m in the outfield,” Burns said of moving from second to left during Monday’s game. “You know, you try to play this game pitch-to-pitch anyway so it’s just refocus and lock in what we’re trying to get accomplished out there and get ready for the next pitch.”
And then there was adjusting to the wind.
“That’s part of baseball is the elements,” Burns said. “It’s definitely different and in the outfield, not having a ton of time out there, that makes it tougher for me. It makes it tougher on guys who have been doing it their whole career. You know, it’s all about repetition and trying to get out there and get those reads early in the day. It was an interesting day to say the least.”