As the news trickled onto the field during Wednesday afternoon’s batting practice, Ryan Goins started to joke with manager Marty Brown.
Goins was going to get a three-day vacation, right? Or would Jose Reyes slide over to second base when the All-Star arrived in Buffalo for his Major League Rehabilitation assignment?
Of course, the 25-year old shortstop will defer his every day position to Reyes, who is scheduled to make three starts in Buffalo beginning tonight on his route back to Toronto after suffering a severe ankle injury back in April.
But Goins has been growing into the shortstop position this season, his first at Triple-A, and has been a steady defensive presence for the Buffalo Bisons. And his ability to field the ball and turn plays continues to improve and impress.
“I think it’s a credit to him. He works hard at it,” Brown said. “He wanted to get better from day one. I challenged him early on and told him I didn’t know if he was a shortstop or a second baseman at the major league level. But I said, ‘Prove me wrong. You’re probably a second baseman but prove me wrong.’ He’s done that. He’s really turned it up. We can all see it.”
On Thursday afternoon, Goins turned several great defensive plays and knocked a well-placed single to right field to score two runs for the Herd in the ninth. The Bisons’ rally fell short, though, as Gwinnett held on for the 3-2 win.
Goins, a fourth-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in the 2009 First Year Player Draft, is in his fifth season of professional ball.
He spent all of last season at Double-A New Hampshire, playing in 136 games and batting .289 for the season, driving in 61 runs.
As he moved to Triple-A this season, the challenge was adjusting to the speed of the game and the speed of the hits cracking through the infield.
“I think it’s just adjusting to the game in Triple-A,” Goins said. “It’s a little different than Double-A. It’ a little faster. Guys hit the ball consistently harder so it’s just adjusting to get the speed of the baseball down and once I got it, I ran with it.”
This weekend, Goins will likely have the opportunity to play a game or two at second base, paired with Reyes at shortstop. Goins played with Reyes in spring training and well, there’s a lot to absorb just by watching the four-time All-Star and the 2011 National League batting champion.
“His arm strength and just his fast-twitch body is just ridiculous,” Goins said. “It’s unbelievable. He does everything really fast. His hands are fast when he hits, he runs fast, his arm is fast. When you watch it you’re like, ‘oh my goodness.’ This guy is worth all the money he has right now.
“He’s a real high-energy guy. It’s fun to just sit there and watch. ... I can’t try to be Jose Reyes. He’s one of the most special players in the world, you know? I can’t try to be who he is. I’ve got to be my own player. But you can take stuff like how they go about their business, how professional they are and learn from that.”
Notably missing from the Herd’s lineup Thursday was Anthony Gose. The centerfielder had two poor plays in the ninth inning on Wednesday that allowed Gwinnett to earn a comeback win.
Was Gose not in the lineup on purpose after last night? “What do you think? Yeah, he needs a day to think,” Brown said.
After Wednesday’s game, Brown said, “We have to get his head removed from a place it shouldn’t be.”
Gose was recalled by Toronto on May 20 and played in 13 games with the Blue Jays, where he batted .304 and had five strikeouts in 23 at-bats.
But he was optioned back to Buffalo on June 6 and shortly after that, Gose went into a slide. In the series in Pawtucket, he went 0 for 14 with seven strikeouts. In his last 104 at-bats, he has 42 strikeouts.
Asked after Thursday’s game if Gose would be back in the lineup today, Brown was again terse: “We’ll see. I’m still pissed, so we’ll see.”
With the loss, the Herd hit the midway point of the season at 36-36, a disappointing record for a club that was at one time 10 games over .500.
“You can sit around and make excuses about movement or injury or whatever, but these guys have been together since spring training, they played very well and then we’ve hit a bit of a lull,” Brown said. “It’s our staff’s responsibility to get them together and do what we have to do to get them back to that mode.”
Thursday’s paid attendance was 8,206. ... The Herd continue their homestand by opening a four-game series with Durham tonight (7:05 p.m., TWCS, Radio 1520). ... Wilson native and former University at Buffalo pitcher Steve Geltz will return to town with the Bulls. The 25-year-old reliever has made 21 appearances and is 3-2 with a 3.12 earned run average. ... Righty Thad Weber (2-1, 2.20 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Bisons. Durham will likely counter with J.D. Martin (9-3, 2.89). ... There are only about 2,000 tickets left for Saturday’s Star Wars Night, with the first pitch at 6:05 p.m.