Ryan Langerhans received a call he wasn’t expecting.
He was enjoying his time playing outside of Houston for the Independent League Sugar Land Skeeters. It was where the 33-year old outfielder landed after being released by the Buffalo Bisons on June 21.
Two months later, the Toronto Blue Jays had 10 players on the disabled list and had poached away a huge chunk of the Bisons’ roster.
So a few days ago, Langerhans got a call from Charlie Wilson, Toronto’s director of minor league operations. And Langerhans was on his way back to Buffalo.
He made his return Thursday night, making one of the most outstanding defensive plays of the season for the Herd. It was the highlight of the game for the Bisons, who dropped a 5-1 decision to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
A crowd of 8,778 at Coca-Cola Field unleashed oohs and ahhs in the second inning when Langerhans reached over the wall in center, just to the left of the 404-foot sign, and denied Cameron Rupp a home run.
“I knew the ball was hit well off the bat and I thought I got a pretty good bead on where it was going,” Langerhans said. “I put my head down and ran and once I got back to the track, kind of looked up and found it. It was one of those that looked like it was just going to be a tick over the wall, so I knew I didn’t have to jump too much for it.”
It took Langerhans most of the game to find his swing. He struck out looking in the second, sharply lined out to short in the fourth and grounded out to first in the sixth. In the ninth with two outs, he doubled down the right field line.
His struggles at the plate are what cost him his job in Buffalo. Langerhans was Buffalo’s starting left fielder on Opening Day and, along with the rest of the team, put up big offensive numbers. On April 29, he was batting .321.
Then came June and Langerhans went just 1 for 30. He was released June 21 to make room for phenom Kevin Pillar.
“I was scuffling when I left here and just getting down to Texas, getting the chance to find some things with my swing, getting down there to play every day was good,” Langerhans said. “I got my legs stretched out. Playing in that heat maybe got me back to a little bit better playing weight for me. I’m running a little better.”
He said he was happy to return to Triple-A but leaving the Skeeters was difficult.
“I was all in with those guys,” Langerhans said. “We had an incredibly fun group of guys down there. We were having a lot of success … just pushing toward the playoffs down there. I got the call from Charlie out of the blue and told him I’d be more than happy to come back here.”
Manager Marty Brown was happy to have him back after losing his entire starting outfield – Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and Pillar – to Toronto.
“Ryan is one of my favorite people in the world,” Brown said. “We’re fortunate to have him back here with his experience and leadership.”
The Bisons ended a 26-inning scoreless streak with a run in the fifth when Mike Nickeas, who had doubled, scored on a sacrifice fly by Ricardo Nanita. It’s their only run scored in their last 30∑ innings.
Buffalo is five games behind Pawtucket in the International League North Division, sitting in fourth place for the first time since July 13. The Bisons are 4½ games behind Rochester in the wild-card hunt.
Derrick Mitchell gave the IronPigs all the runs they would need with a two-run homer to left in the second.
Thad Weber (6-4, 2.63 ERA) will start for the Herd tonight (7:05 p.m., Radio 1520) against Lehigh Valley’s Greg Smith (8-2, 2.43).