Yesterday, I went down to Buffalo to take in another Bisons game. To be honest, it’s so easy to do, I’m not sure why more Toronto Blue Jays fans don’t go. You can get a much cheaper ticket, sit far closer to the field, and yes, pay much less for beer and concessions. I admit that I really enjoy watching minor league baseball more than I do major league baseball. It’s a much friendlier and warmer environment that’s less geared towards corporate sponsorship and more towards the ordinary fan.
The weather this time was fantastic (last time it was freezing cold): a bright, sunny day with temperatures around 20 degrees. In the sun, it warmed up nicely but the nice breeze kept things from being too hot.
It was a very entertaining game, with the Bisons jumping out to an early lead on two first inning home runs against the Indianapolis Indians, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ AAA team. Mauro Gomez and Josh Thole both hit the ball out of the park as part of a four-run first inning. Gomez’s shot was a wall-scraper to dead center field, actually taking the center fielder’s glove off as he tried to catch it. It was pretty comical when he pulled his hand back from over the fence and there was no glove on it! Thole followed with the back-to-back shot and the Bisons were on the rampage. Unfortunately, Indians’ starter Brooks Brown pulled it together and only allowed one more run in his five innings.
Buffalo starter Dave Bush continues to be quite effective in getting AAA batters out. He maxes out at around 86 mph but has a good curve ball and has been hitting his spots effectively. He had another solid start in Buffalo but as his season stats show (48 IP, 5.06 ERA, 55 H, 6 BB, 12 HR, 32 K), he doesn’t have a lot of room for error and he gives up a LOT of home runs (including one on Sunday).
Brooks Brown’s fifth run came off of a towering home run from Bisons DH/1B Luis Jimenez. The big man (listed at 6’3″, 280 lbs) absolutely crushed an inside pitch that looked like it actually left the park beyond the right field wall. Jimenez is hitting .350/.434/.605 with 10 HRs in 157 ABs this year in what is fast becoming his best season ever. Bisons play-by-play man Ben Wagner talked about his professionalism with Jeff Sammut on Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590 recently and it shows in his performance so far.
After Bush exited the game, Buddy Carlyle came in. I had seen Carlyle throw in Spring Training and he appears to be exactly what I expected. He throws in the low-90s with a pretty decent slider, and when things are working (including his location), he can be effective in short spurts as he was on Sunday (with 3 Ks in 2 IP).
Righty Michael Schwimer followed Carlyle and he’s definitely a guy that I thought would be more than he is. With the Blue Jays penchant for acquiring hard-throwing guys who just haven’t reached his potential, I thought that that’s what the Blue Jays got from the Philadelphia Phillies when they sent minor leaguer Art Charles. Schwimer has been effective in AAA (and has major league service under his belt) but actually seeing him pitch left kind of a weird taste in my mouth. In 5 appearances this year, he’s thrown 6 shutout innings walking 6 and striking out 6, but three of those strikeouts came on Sunday. Schwimer throws with an over-the-top delivery that appears to have him throwing “cricket-style” with an almost straight arm. I think his hardest pitch was 87 mph and he really didn’t look all that dominant. I couldn’t get a good look at his off-speed stuff from the angle that I was sitting at but I would hope that he has a lot of movement on his pitches and deception in his delivery that helps his stuff play up.
Speaking of under-performing hard throwers, I was really impressed by Indians’ reliever Erik Cordier. He has missed two seasons over his career due to injury (including Tommy John surgery) but always seems to have had trouble with walks and not enough strikeouts. He didn’t have any trouble with either his control or striking batters out on Sunday. He was hitting 97-98 over 2 innings and absolutely freezing batters with his slider. He faced six batters on the day and struck out five of them, usually with the slider thrown for a strike. And he wasn’t pitching to the weak part of the Buffalo order either. He struck out Jimenez and Gomez looking and Thole swinging.* In his next inning, he struck out Ryan Langerhans swinging and Ricardo Nanita looking before Ryan Goins grounded out. In fact, Nanita (31), who is a minor league veteran had a tough six-pitch at bat in which he fouled off three pitches before getting fooled by the slider and taking it for strike three. Goins had the best at bat, taking Cordier to 8 pitches before grounding out to third base (opposite way for left-handed-hitting Goins). Cordier threw 29 pitches, 21 for strikes, all the while throwing a 97-98 mph fastball. I’m surprised Alex Anthopoulos missed him!
All in all, it was a nice way to spend a day. I caught up with bloggers Minor Leaguer (Bluebird Banter) and Jared Macdonald (jaysprospects.com) briefly as they were there as credentialed media members for the day. I enjoyed the sunshine and a great ball game and got some great photos.
* Thole actually was hit on the hand fouling the second pitch of his at bat off (for strike two). Manager Marty Brown removed him from the game and emergency pitch hitter Mike Nickeas swung and missed on the only pitch he saw.