Some of the best pitching prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays organization have made a stop with the Buffalo Bisons on their way to the majors this year. As the prospects have been promoted, the Bisons have been left to fill holes with young pitchers.
One by one the youngsters have made their Triple-A debuts. And one by one they’ve been dealing upon arrival.
Add Scott Copeland to the list. The 26-year-old right-hander made his first start in Triple-A Monday night. He threw seven scoreless innings in front of 7,186 at Coca-Cola Field as the Bisons opened a homestand with a 5-0 win over the Norfolk Tides.
While Copeland was working a strong outing on the mound, off the field the Bisons announced Edwin Encarnacion would be making a rehab start in Buffalo today.
The All-Star infielder has been on the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps. He hasn’t played since sustaining the injury on July 5 when he ran out a ground ball in Oakland. Encarnacion had a setback last week at the Blue Jays’ spring complex but played in two games for Dunedin, including Monday.
The 31-year-old was tied for the major league lead in home runs (26) and runs batted in (70) at the time of his injury.
Back in Buffalo, it was Copeland who was making noise. He scattered six hits in his seven innings of work with four strikeouts and one walk.
“I’m excited right now. It probably doesn’t look that way, but I am,” Copeland said after the game with a deadpan face. “Just go out there, attack the hitters and get ground balls, get to the next guy.”
Copeland is the latest in a series of pitchers up from Double-A New Hampshire who have made an immediate impact for the Bisons.
He joined Daniel Norris and Kendall Graveman who had their Triple-A debuts with the Bisons in the last 10 days. Norris also won his first start, that in a win at Durham on Sunday. The familiarity with some of the players helped Copeland make the quick transition.
“I talked to Norris and Graveman and they said just go attack” the hitters, Copeland said. “That’s the type of pitcher I am. Power pitcher. Throw the sinker down at your hands and you’re going to hit a ground ball and hopefully our defense makes the play.”
The Bisons’ defense knows how to make plays. They turned three double plays for Copeland Monday. And the pitcher has always trusted his defense. With the FisherCats he led the Eastern League at the time of his promotion with the team turning 17 double plays behind him.
“It’s very important for me because I’m not a big strikeout pitcher, not a big fly ball pitcher,” Copeland said. “I need some infielders to do some work. With that defense I have, it’s going to be fun.”
The offense got another hand from Kevin Pillar who smoked a shot over the left-field wall as his three-run home run broke a scoreless tie.
The blast extended Pillar’s hitting streak to 18 games making him the first player in the club’s modern era to have two streaks of 18 games in one season.
The lead extended to 4-0 in the fifth when with one out, Darin Mastroianni broke for home and crossed the plate. It was called a steal by the official scorer, but the call was overruled by scoring supervisors in minor league baseball. They ruled it a fielder’s choice since Kevin Pillar was tagged out on the play. The Bisons plan to appeal the decision today
Mastroianni scored again in the seventh when a single by Ryan Goins was misplayed by left fielder Quintin Berry, allowing Mastroianni to score from second.
Graveman will make his third start with the Bisons when the team hosts Norfolk tonight (7:05 p.m., Radio 1520 AM). He made a pair of starts on the road for the Herd, and, although he’s 0-2, he has given solid performances in games without run support.
This is the first full professional season for the 23-year old Graveman, who played four years at Mississippi State. He spent most of this season with Single-A Dunedin, going 8-4 with a 2.23 ERA in 16 starts.