By Mike Harrington
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- I'll be meeting the Sabres Monday in Tampa so I took an early detour down south where it's 50-degrees-ish cold -- I hear all your sympathy pangs -- to check out Blue Jays/Bisons camp. The Jays are playing the Red Sox and old friends John Farrell and Torey Lovullo today at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. (Lovullo demanded Sabres updates when I saw him on the field pregame. I told him Ryan Miller hasn't been too chatty lately. Heh.)
I've already checked in with Bisons manager Marty Brown and will have a story on his early thoughts on the Herd with a week to go in camp in Sunday's paper. The Blue Jays sent a bunch of guys out to minor-league camp today and one of them was infielder and St. Francis product Jim Negrych, who made a big impression with the at-bats he got.
Negrych got into 20 big-league games and went 12 for 28, with his .429 average tied for third on the club entering today. He had three doubles, two homers, six RBIs, drew five walks, had an on-base percentage of .515 and a slugging percentage of .750. In the previous two years in Marlins and Pirates camp, he had only four big-league at-bats.
"You'd see him take BP and it looked like he had a good idea," Manager John Gibbons told me today. "You start throwing him in the games and he might have been the MVP of the camp to be honest with you. He opened up a lot of eyes. He's a gritty type player who can do a lot of things. Who knows? You never know."
A curiosity that no one here knew much about, Negrych is clearly on the radar now as a backup option in the big leagues if the need arises.
"You pull for guys like that who've been around a while but haven't got a break," Gibbons said. "The thing about this organization is the way they've always been is if a guy deserves something, they give him a shot. It's not like other places where if you're not that guy, it dosn't matter what you do. Forget it. This organization always rewards guys that perform well for the most part where they can."
Of course, the day I arrive in camp is the day Negrych is sent out so I'm going to have to go a couple miles away to the minor-league complex to catch up with him at some point this weekend. The current plan is you'll read what he has to say in Monday's editions of The News.