Bo Bichette was still in Buffalo on that late April afternoon when his friend and teammate, Vlad Guerrero Jr., was called up to make his major league debut with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“That was really cool to see,” Bichette said.
Bichette, then considered the club’s No. 2 prospect behind Guerrero, knew his time was coming.
He also knew it was being delayed.
Bichette, 21, had broken a bone in his left hand two days earlier, on April 22, when the Buffalo Bisons’ shortstop was hit by a pitch from Syracuse Mets lefty Hector Santiago in the third inning of a 7-3 loss, which dropped the Bisons’ record to 4-11.
Bichette, who was ranked the No. 10 prospect in baseball by MLB.com, had batted just .250 in his first two weeks with the Bisons, his first taste of Triple-A baseball. But he hit a scorching .417 with four homers and five RBI in 18 spring training games. And he had entered the game against Syracuse on an eight-game hitting streak.
He was just starting to get comfortable.
#BlueJays No. 2 prospect Bo Bichette reportedly has a broken left hand after being hit by a pitch in last night's @BuffaloBisons game. Bichette is #MLB's No. 10 overall prospect: https://t.co/GHKO6yYsIe pic.twitter.com/QepJm89uYm
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 23, 2019
“It was tough, especially being in Triple-A for my first year,” Bichette said. “You’re one call away from the big leagues. It was difficult. I knew I had a chance of being called up. I didn’t know when. But I knew I had a chance. So for it to happen at that point was disappointing, but everything happens for a reason.
“I just went down to Florida and tried to get better and everything I could and come back ready to go.”
The results are evident.
Bichette hit a blistering .365 with eight doubles, two homers and 11 RBI in 20 games in June, including a brief rehab stint with the Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays. He scored 16 runs, racked up eight steals in as many attempts and walked 12 times, compared to 19 strikeouts. Bichette returned to the Bisons on June 13 and cranked his second home run of the season the next day.
“He came back after almost seven weeks being injured,” Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said, “and the tricky part from taking a long time off is just getting back into baseball stuff. Not necessarily the ground balls or the hits, but just how to cover the bag better, how to turn a double play in sync with the guy next to you, how to make sure you’re communicating with the outfielders and pitchers on pickoffs and things like that.
“He’s jumped right in and really, I haven’t noticed that he’s missed a beat with all the little things. And so, once he can continue doing that, he doesn’t really miss much from where he left off seven weeks ago, as far as the learning curve.”
Meacham, who played shortstop for the New York Yankees, said Bichette is quick to pick up the tricks of the trade.
“He’s working hard and getting a lot of little detail stuff that I just feed to him,” Meacham said. “Almost every day, I feed to him little things that I know the shortstop has to know, and he doesn’t forget it. He’s right on it the very next day and has continued on that path, so he’s a quick learner, and he’s starting to swing the bat really well for us. I’m sure he feels good about that, too.”
Bichette, the son of former major leaguer Dante Bichette, said his dad also broke his hand during his first couple of weeks in Triple-A.
“So it was a weird coincidence,” Bichette said.
And since his home is only about a 40-minute drive from the Blue Jays’ spring training facility, he said, he was able to spend some time with his family while rehabbing.
As for advice, Dante simply told his son “that it’s going to heal,” Bo Bichette said. “It’s going to be annoying for a little bit but it’s going to heal and you’ll be back in no time, and that’s what it was.”
Bichette said it was a “big sigh of relief” to learn that he didn’t need surgery.
“And there were some other people down there rehabbing with the Jays,” Bichette said. “(Clay) Buchholz, Devon Travis, David Phelps was there at the time, and we were all kind of going through it together. That helped, too.”
Bichette was still in Florida when the Blue Jays promoted Cavan Biggio from the Bisons, reuniting him with Guerrero.
“He worked his butt off and he really earned it, too,” Bichette said. “So to see both of them go up there and now they’re both doing pretty well, it’s pretty cool to see and I’m super excited for them.”
Bichette isn’t sure whether he’ll make it to Toronto before the end of this season.
“I’m hopeful,” Bichette said. “But for me, whatever happens happens. If I get called up, I get called up. But for me, it’s more of a situation where as long as I get better as a player in every facet of the game – offensively, defensively, base running, everything – it’ll be successful. That’s all I can hope for.
“The big leagues will come at some point. I’m pretty confident in that. But when it comes, I don’t know. And as long as I’m down here, it’s just about continuing to put myself in the best position to be ready to go when I get called.”
He works to maintain that mindset.
“It’s not easy to have that confidence,” Bichette said. “I’m pretty confident it’s going to happen. But to be able to stay in the moment here and not think about it isn’t the easiest thing. That’s something that I struggle with every day, coming to the field and just worrying about being a Bison for now and trying to help my teammates get better and help the team win, and not think about the big leagues.
“It’s not easy, but it’s something I’m working on and trying to perfect.”