It was setting up to be a big year for Sean Nolin.
The 24-year-old was an Eastern League All-Star for Double-A New Hampshire in 2013, earning his first Triple-A promotion and then his first invitation to big league spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The left-hander was ready to continue to work up the baseball food chain.
Then he suffered a leg injury. Not once, but twice. A left groin pull landed him on the disabled list twice, missing a total of 50 games.
Tuesday night, Nolin returned to the Buffalo Bisons and looked solid and comfortable on the mound. He pitched six scoreless innings, pacing the Herd to a 7-1 win over the Indianapolis Indians in front of 6,579 at Coca-Cola Field.
“I would say it was a good one, but it could have been a little sharper,” Nolin said. “It was, I guess, a little wild at some points but it’s just getting a little bit of the rust off.”
Nolin spent time rehabbing his injury in Florida, working on flexibility, strength and balance to not only get back in game action this year but also to prevent further injury. He had never spent prolonged periods on the disabled list so this new baseball experience meant he had to focus himself mentally.
“To start off, once it happens, it’s something hard,” Nolin said. “I take it to heart because I want to help the team. I want to play baseball. It’s what I’m here for. But once it sinks in, I just tell myself to let it go and focus on getting better instead of feeling sorry for myself.”
Nolin picked up his first win since April 26. He gave up two hits and one walk, but thanks to a double play, faced just two batters over the minimum. He struck out three, throwing 45 of his 76 pitches for strikes.
“Might not have known that,” Nolin said of the fact that his last win came in April. “It’s definitely a good feeling. I had the defense behind me and the offense, too. That was a fun game.”
The Bisons jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first when Kevin Pillar drilled a two-run home run. They slowly added to the lead.
In the fourth, Jonathan Diaz had an RBI single, extending his hitting streak eight games. During the streak, Diaz is 12 for 27 (.444). In Tuesday’s win, he went 2 for 2 with a walk, hit by pitch and RBI. Two more runs scored in the seventh – one on a bases loaded walk drawn by Brad Glenn and one on a sacrifice to right by A.J Jimenez – while Andy LaRoche crushed a solo home run to left center.
The shutout was spoiled in the ninth when Steve Delabar came in to close out the game. Chase d’Arnaud doubled and scored on a one-out single by Matt Hague. But Delabar got a strikeout and a flyout to preserve the win.
The homestand continues tonight (7:05 p.m., Radio 1520 AM) with righty P.J. Walter (3-2, 4.82) scheduled to start for the Bisons against Nick Kingham (4-2, 3.04).