Jim Negrych has put together a proud, productive career as evidenced by back-to-back selections to the Triple-A All-Star Game. He’ll represent the Bisons in this year’s game, which will be played on Wednesday in Reno, Nev. Yet for Negrych to take the next step into the Major Leagues, he must become a utility player.
Negrych started at second base, his natural position, in both games of the Buffalo Bisons’ doubleheader loss Saturday to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Coca-Cola Field, but he’s also played third and could see some time in left field.
“I’ve played third base in the past and when I did go they didn’t just throw me into the fire,” said Negrych. “Our infield coordinator came down and worked me a little at third base and helped me with my footwork and explained to me how to take my angles, what I have to do and what to expect.”
Bisons manager Marty Brown told Negrych he should be able to move around to enhance his chances in the majors.
“I enjoy going over to third base, I enjoy playing second, I just like being in the lineup anywhere you put it,” Negrych said. “I don’t feel any different playing third or second.”
Negrych is an All-Star again because of his work at the plate. He’s cooled off from his hot start to the season but is still one of the International League’s leaders in batting at .312. In April, the St. Francis product hit .429 in 17 games. He’s proven he can hit. But can he play multiple positions?
“Most people know I can play third, I can play second and I can probably play left,” said Negrych, 28. “It’s always good to have options when you get to my age in the minor leagues; you don’t want to be strictly a second baseman when there’s no option for you getting up and that’s what was happening. Marty has been talking about putting me out there in left, but there hasn’t been any movement on that, but if it happens, I’ve played a lot out there.”
Also representing the Herd in Wednesday’s game is Mauro Gomez, who is also competing in the Home Run Derby. Gomez already has 25 home runs, tied for the ninth most in the franchise’s modern era.
“I watch Mauro every day in BP hit the ball out of a lot of parks that aren’t too hitter-friendly,” Negrych said. “If he needs me to take a swing, I will, but I don’t know if Mauro needs me or not. He’s a powerful guy.”
The IL’s top three home run hitters are in the Derby in Gomez, Rochester’s Chris Colabello and Gwinnett’s Ernesto Mejia. Combined, the trio has launched 73 homers thus far. Negrych favors his teammate.
“If there’s one guy who can go in there and win, it would be him,” Negrych said. “I’m not going to put money on anyone else. The guy can hit balls out of almost any park in the league.”
The parent Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday activated Brett Lawrie off his injury rehabilitation assignment and sent down infielder Munenori Kawasaki to the Bisons. Lawrie was immediately inserted into the Jays’ lineup at second base against Baltimore Saturday, batting eighth and going 0 for 4 in Toronto’s victory.
Lawrie played three games with the Bisons and hit .167 in 12 at-bats with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. In 70 games with the Blue Jays this season, Kawasaki hit .213 with four doubles, four triples, a home run and 20 RBIs. He is also 7 for 8 in stolen bases.
Kawasaki has hit much better in his three games with the Herd this season. He has two multi-hit outings and a .444 (4 for 9) average. A member of Buffalo’s Opening Day roster, Kawasaki was promoted after just two games on April 13 due to the injury to Jose Reyes. He was then optioned to the Bisons on June 26 and played one game before being recalled two days later.
The Bisons also activated catcher Mike Nickeas just before Game One and sent catcher Jack Murphy to Double-A New Hampshire. Nickeas was placed on the temporary inactive list retroactive to last Wednesday.
Coming into the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Bisons outfielder Kevin Pillar had reached base in all 22 games he had played in Triple-A, the longest active streak in the International League. Pillar also has 15 extra-base hits since his June 21 promotion to the Bisons, two more than any player in the IL.
Pillar’s streak ended in the nightcap as he went 0 for 3. He’s now batting .352.
Anthony Gose is showing signs that he may be ready to emerge as a consistent hitter. The outfielder now has an eight-game hitting streak heading into today’s game
Gose has raised his batting average to .229 with two homers and 20 RBIs.
Fernando Martinez, who played three seasons for the Bisons, started at DH in the first game for Scranton. … The teams play again at 1:05 this afternoon (Radio 1520 AM) before taking an All-Star break. Left-hander Ricky Romero (1-3, 6.15) faces Scranton’s Brett Marshall (4-6, 5.99).