By Mike Harrington
TORONTO -- Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos was holding a routine meeting with reporters in the dugout prior to tonight's game against the Giants when veteran Toronto Star columnist Richard Griffin brought up the subject I was just about to ask: What's up with Bisons second baseman Jim Negrych?
The St. Francis product enters tonight's game at Indianapolis leading all of affiliated baseball with a .417 batting average. He leads the International League in on-base percentage (.475) and OPS (1.114) and is second in slugging (.639, behind only the .647 of teammate Luis Jimenez). Negrych is tied for second in the league in doubles (13) and has actually walked more than he's struck out (13 BBs, 12 Ks in 108 official at-bats).
What more does a guy have to do to get his first callup to the big leagues?
"Being completely candid, there's obviously the point of are you expecting someone to hit .400 for the entire year when they haven't done it in their career? No. But it's been a great surprise," Anthopoulous said. "We were encouraged he was the surprise in camp (batting .394 in MLB spring training) and I don't think we expected him to get off to this type of start. So he's starting to make his way in the conversation more and more as he continues to do this."
Anthopoulous said he's checked in regularly with Bisons manager Marty Brown and has talked to several players in Toronto who have played in Buffalo to get their thoughts on Negrych. Negatives? He's not on the 40-man roster and is limited to second base because of his arm strength. The Blue Jays are set there with Macier Izturis and Emilio Bonifcacio, who have struggled much of the year. Izturis, however, is hitting .290 in May and Bonifacio, stuck at .184 for the season, had a three-hit game Sunday in Boston.
"You can make 40-man spots," Anthopoulos said. "A 25-man spot is something else. He's the type of guy that if he came up, you'd want to play him just to see. You really want to find out about the bat."
Bottom line: Negrych needs to keep putting up numbers -- and hope one of Toronto's second basemen goes down.
"At some point, we'll have a need and if he's playing well, he'll definitely be a callup for us if he's playing well," Anthopoulos said. "This is a great problem to have. You'd always rather see players perform like this and doing as well as he is. It can solve itself. ... At any point at time if we have somebody getting hurt in terms of a middle infielder and we can give him a two-week look, he would be right there at the top of the list."
There is another possibility for Negrych. Melky Cabrera is getting an MRI on tight hamstrings Wednesday and could go on the DL. The Blue Jays might call up Moises Sierra in that case -- or they could call up Negrych and play Bonifacio in the outfield. Stay tuned.