TORONTO – Jim Negrych leads all of professional baseball in batting average but continues to be the regular second baseman in the Buffalo Bisons’ lineup.
What does the St. Francis product have to do to get his first call-up to the big leagues? Hang tight and keep putting up numbers.
That was the word Tuesday from Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, who discussed Negrych in depth during a dugout meeting with reporters prior to the Blue Jays’ game against the San Francisco Giants in Rogers Centre.
“This is a great problem to have,” Anthopoulos said. “You’d always rather see players perform like this and doing as well as he is. It can solve itself. … At any point in time, if we have somebody getting hurt in terms of a middle infielder and we can give him a two-week look, he would be right there at the top of the list.”
Negrych was in the No. 2 slot in the Bisons’ lineup on Tuesday, going 1-for-4 with an RBI single in a 10-4 loss at Indianapolis. Negrych is batting .411. The top average in the big leagues entering Tuesday was the .376 of Tampa Bay’s James Loney.
Through Tuesday, Negrych was leading the International League in on-base percentage (.468) and OPS (1.093) and was third in slugging (.625). He batted .394 for the Blue Jays during major-league spring training and now has hit safely in 25 of his 29 games.
“Being completely candid, there’s obviously the point of are you expecting someone to hit .400 for the entire year when they haven’t done it in their career? No. But it’s been a great surprise,” Anthopoulos said. “We were encouraged he was the surprise in camp and I don’t think we expected him to get off to this type of start. So he’s starting to make his way in the conversation more and more as he continues to do this.”
Anthopoulos said he’s checked in regularly with Bisons manager Marty Brown and has talked to several players in Toronto who have played in Buffalo to get their thoughts on Negrych. The biggest issue with Negrych is that he’s a second baseman and lack of arm strength doesn’t really allow him to fill in at third or at shortstop in the big leagues. In addition, he would need to be added to Toronto’s 40-man roster.
The Blue Jays are set at second with Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio, although they have struggled much of the year. Izturis, however, was hitting .290 in May before going 1-for-5 Tuesday and Bonifacio, stuck at .198 for the season, had a three-hit game Sunday in Boston and two more hits Tuesday.
“You can make 40-man roster spots,” Anthopoulos said. “A 25-man spot is something else.
“He’s the type of guy that if he came up, you’d want to play him just to see. You really want to find out about the bat.”
At Victory Field in Indianapolis, Bison starter Miguel Batista (1-2) had a rough outing, giving up five runs in the first inning and eight runs on 10 hits in three innings.
Moises Sierra gave the Herd a 1-0 lead in the first, but the Indians answered with five in the bottom of the inning, getting two runs on a homer by Tony Sanchez.
Indianapolis added four runs in the fourth to extend the lead.
The Herd got solo home runs from Sierra, Josh Thole and Andy LaRoche.
Indianapolis belted out 15 hits, a season high.
It wasn’t the type of matchup expected to start this four-game series. Buffalo owns the best offense in the IL (.294 batting average, 43 home runs) while the Indians have the best pitching (2.72 ERA). The Bisons continue the series with Indianapolis today (1:35 p.m., Radio 1520) with righty Dave Bush (4-2, 3.86) scheduled to start for the Herd against righty Brooks Brown (1-0, 2.33).