The Bisons return to Coca-Cola Field for an eight-game homestand that starts Monday night against the Gwinnett Braves, and there’s a decent chance they’ll have a star-studded shortstop in their lineup at some point. Jose Reyes, out since severely spraining an ankle April 12 in Kansas City, will open an injury rehab assignment Monday night at Class A Dunedin and could be in Buffalo later this week on his road back to Toronto.
Reyes played two innings in the field and registered three at-bats in a simulated game Friday morning in Dunedin, the Jays’ Florida complex. He also went through some sliding drills.
“It’s a pretty good injury, so we have to ease him into it,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters Friday in Texas. “He can do all of those drills on the field, but it’s still not like reacting in a game. It’ll be a build-up thing, but the hitting and timing at the plate is important, too.”
The Jays are thinking Reyes might need as much as two weeks of rehab work before he’s ready for big-league pitching, so it’s almost certain he will play with the Bisons at some point. The Herd plays four games against the G-Braves, then opens a four-gamer Friday night at 7 against Durham before their next road trip begins June 25 at Gwinnett. And Saturday is Star Wars Night, one of Buffalo’s biggest promotions of the season.
A Reyes rehab would certainly sell some tickets to both Buffalo fans and Blue Jays fans from Southern Ontario, as well as bringing plenty of Toronto media across the border. It’s also something the Bisons told the Jays last fall they wanted to see more of; the Mets rarely sent any marquee players here on injury rehab, while the Indians did it all the time as players such as Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, CC Sabathia, Charles Nagy, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Dwight Gooden all appeared in Buffalo.
Reyes, 30, was batting .395 in the season’s first 10 games and the Jays’ 10-21 collapse to open the season is closely connected to his absence. Reyes is likely going to wear a brace on the left ankle for the rest of his career and told reporters last week in Chicago the ankle is holding up well in early tests. He also said he may not be on the two-week timetable.
“If it feels like my swing is there where I need to be, I don’t want to take too long because I need to be here and not down there,” he said. “When I start to see live pitching and I feel like my swing is comfortable enough to be here, I’m going to come up.”
No Bull about it
This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the baseball classic “Bull Durham,” the 1988 film starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins that helped kick-start a boom in minor-league baseball and made the Durham Bulls one of the most recognizable teams in the country.
In Class A at the time, the Bulls moved into the International League in 1998 and to a new ballpark downtown. For today’s home game with Indianapolis, they will be wearing the movie-style throwback jerseys and in-game entertainment will focus on the movie’s memorable moments. No word if the team is going to give away candlesticks, live chickens or scrambled eggs, but fans can still win a free steak if a home run hits the famous bull above the fence.
Much like the Bisons’ Chicken Wing race, Durham started a Bull Durham racers event between innings this season. The characters? Of course, it’s Crash Davis, Nuke LaLoosh and Annie Savoy. Check out YouTubes of the racers and a Shelley Duncan steak-winning homer on the Inside Pitch blog at Buffalonews.com
More Mets mess
Speaking of Cougars like Annie, did you hear the latest from the Mets? And I’m not talking about Ike Davis finally going to Las Vegas. Deadspin outed a ridiculous foray by a club marketing executive last week, as a dating site that pairs older women with younger men was courted to curry All-Star votes for David Wright.
Wright recently had been named “MLB’s Hottest Cub” via a vote of more than 11,000 respondents on Cougarlife.com and a Mets representative approached the site for a marketing pairing to help Wright displace Pablo Sandoval for voting at third base for the game July 16 in Citi Field. A superior nixed the initiative and the Mets actually had to issue a statement to explain themselves.
“In our effort to expand All-Star balloting to wider audiences, so as to increase votes, we did reach out to Cougar Life,” the Mets said. “Last year there was a big swing of votes at the end that cost David the starting job. We decided to do everything to make sure that doesn’t happen again this year.
“We ultimately elected to pass. We thank whoever leaked this to Deadspin for increasing awareness of #VOTEWRIGHTNOW AT METS.COM.”
Wright said he’s asked the organization to tone done its in-game push for votes because the team is struggling on the field. A reporter then asked him for his thought on being the Hottest Cub.
“Did you guys have to draw straws for who asked that question?” Wright said. “I guess I’d like to thank my parents for the genes.”
In honor of the absurdity of the situation, irreverant Mets beat writer Marc Carig of Newsday opted to change his Twitter avatar from its usual array of old baseball caps or hockey team logos. Carig’s choice: A road sign you’d likely to see out West that says “Cougar crossing.”
Cole back to hill
Pirates phenom Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, makes his second career start today in PNC Park against the Dodgers and Zack Greinke, making his first appearance since Tuesday’s brawl-filled affair against Arizona. Cole allowed two runs in 6∑ innings in his debut Tuesday against the Giants.
Cole gave up two runs to the Bisons May 25 in Coca-Cola Field while throwing for Indianapolis, then pitched shutout ball in his final five innings that day. He then went on to pitch shutout ball over seven innings in each of his final two starts for Indy, giving him 19 straight scoreless innings in Triple-A.
The Pirates called him up and got a crowd of more than 30,000 Tuesday — including a walkup of more than 10,000. But the night started badly because the club had new security measures planned, with the wanding of every fan. Not enough wanders, not enough open gates, too many fans stuck outside for an inning or two of Cole’s debut. For a franchise that needs as much goodwill as possible after 20 years of losing, this was ludicrous and the team issued an apology.
The wanders gave up shortly after the first pitch and the crowds made their way inside. I’m all for security but wanding every person going inside a ballpark? This isn’t the NFL, where anarchy can prevail in the stands. People come to baseball games from work, often in the last 30 minutes before the first pitch. There’s families all over. Common sense, please.
Pawtucket to Boston
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Boston’s No. 1 prospect, was promoted from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket and homered against the Bisons Friday on his first day with the Red Sox’s top affiliate. The 20-year-old became the youngest player in Pawtucket history when he started in Friday’s doubleheader sweep of the Herd.
He singled, stole second and scored the game’s only run in the seventh inning of the first game, then belted a two-run homer in the nightcap. Bogaerts batted .311 with Portland, including .424 in June. Bogaerts, who played for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, was signed out of Aruba in 2009 at age 16.
“This looks to be a pretty special player,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He’s well ahead of the age curve, being at Triple-A at 20.”
Around the horn
• The Diamondbacks and Dodgers might not be done rumbling this season, but they can get an early start on their hatred next year when they open with the first-ever MLB regular season games in Australia. They will meet March 22-23, 2014, at the famous Sydney Cricket Ground, which will undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation to become an MLB field for a few days.
• How tough a sale are tickets at Yankee Stadium these days? The Bronx Bombers are offering six-game summer packs that include pre-sale of postseason ducats. Just like the Red Sox are finding out, once you exceed your price point and people drop out, it’s tough to get them back.
• Among those named to All-Star staffs last week were Gibbons, Mets manager and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Terry Collins, and Red Sox trainer Rick Jameyson, a longtime trainer for the Bisons during the Cleveland era.