It started in the morning during a simulated game for rehabbing pitcher Sean Nolin, long before the gates at Coca-Cola Field were opened. Andy LaRoche drilled a line drive off Nolin’s leg and that was it for the workout.
Turned out to be an omen for a bizarre Sunday for the Buffalo Bisons.
Nolin was the first of four Buffalo pitchers – count ’em, four! – who were injured and could not continue their duties. Starter Ricky Romero and relievers Rob Rasmussen and Neil Wagner all trudged off the mound slowly as the Bisons blew a 5-1 lead and eventually lost to the Syracuse Chiefs, 8-5, before a sun-drenched crowd of 7,472.
Manager Gary Allenson, pitching coach Randy St. Claire and trainer Voon Chong put on plenty of mileage between the dugout and mound in this one.
Allenson didn’t have a lot of specifics on the injuries after the game but it would seem any of the quartet could be candidates for the disabled list.
They will all be re-evaluated today.
“Just a weird day for us, starting from our ‘simgame,’ ” said catcher Mike Nickeas. “An unlucky day. Weird stuff. Ricky to ‘Ras’ to ‘Wags.’ Unfortunate for us all the way around.”
Here’s the rundown:
• Romero, who had a 5-1 lead and was trying to get his first win of the year, left with knee discomfort after hitting Gerald Laird with a pitch leading off the fourth. Allenson said the knee may have been aggravated a couple of innings earlier while Romero was backing up home plate.
Romero still had control trouble, walking three and uncorking a wild pitch in three-plus innings. But he also escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the third without giving up a run.
“Ricky was pretty good today,” Allenson said. “Flashes of losing his control but he got it back. He had the 5-1 lead and it would have been nice to see him go through five or six innings there.”
• Rasmussen, just back from Toronto, was felled by a wicked line drive by Destin Hood that was actually turned into the final out of the seventh on a ricochet to third. The ball struck Rasmussen above the elbow on the pitching hand and knocked him on his back before he popped up to his feet and walked off.
“Oh my God, that was really scary,” Nickeas said. “I just was hoping it wasn’t his face. I didn’t see the ball come off the bat, I just heard it.”
• Wagner left after his two-out wild pitch allowed Zach Walter to score from third and snap a 5-5 tie. He had struck out the previous two hitters with the bases loaded and nearly escaped the jam but uncorked the pitch well short of the plate and then failed to cover home.
“The one that bounced looked weird coming out of his hand,” Nickeas said. “I can’t ever remember him throwing a pitch like that. I was kind of shocked he wasn’t there to cover so you knew he felt something.”
Wagner spent some time on the disabled list last month with forearm tightness.
“We’ve told him if he feels any discomfort to get out of there,” Allenson said. “This isn’t the level to be fighting through something where an arm issue might be at stake.”
Wagner blew his first save in 21 chances with the Bisons the last two years as Syracuse scored four runs in the ninth to wipe out a 5-4 deficit. The final two scored on Laird’s two-run single off Ryan Rowland-Smith.
The lone good news on the pitching front came as Liam Hendriks was returned to Buffalo by the Blue Jays after Sunday’s win over Kansas City, with the parent club announcing Marcus Stroman will remain in the rotation to start Friday against St. Louis. Hendriks is 5-0 for Buffalo with an International League-leading 1.48 earned run average.
It’s likely Hendriks will start here Tuesday or Wednesday against Toledo. The Bisons also could get bullpen help, assuming Bobby Korecky clears waivers and agrees to return.
Said Allenson: “With a few of the troops wounded there, we need some reinforcements.”