By Mike Harrington
Getting big-name players from the big club to spend part of their injury rehabilitation assignments in Buffalo was certainly the hope when the Bisons signed on with the Toronto Blue Jays last fall, and the Jays are already making good on that promise.
Josh Johnson made two starts for the Herd last month and now comes the word Buffalo fans -- and most folks in the Bisons front office -- have been waiting for: All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes will be manning his normal spot on the diamond for the Herd beginning Friday night.
The Bisons play the Durham Bulls here Friday night at 7, Saturday night at 6 and Sunday afternoon at 1. As previously scheduled, Saturday is Star Wars Night and only about 3,500 tickets remain. The traditional Friday night crowd will almost certainly swell now and Sunday could be a good house as well, meaning a gate of 40,000+ for the weekend is certainly possible.
As rehab assignments go, this will be the biggest one in Buffalo since Manny Ramirez spent three days here in 2001 at the height of the Cleveland era.
Reyes will fly from Dunedin to Toronto on Thursday and then drive to Buffalo to be here for Friday's series opener against Durham, which leads the South Division and swept the Bisons in a four-game set earlier this month.
"It's one of the big benefits of being so geographically close," said Bisons General Manager Mike Buczkowski. "Now you have one of their top players Who can fly from Dunedin to Toronto, then just drive down to Buffalo to play in his games. You look around minor-league baseball and it's the Triple-A teams that get the marquee players. It's great for us and will be great for our fans that we're on that list now to."
Reyes, out since April 12 with a severe ankle sprain, is the key player Toronto acquired from the Miami Marlins over the winter and a major reason many experts picked the Blue Jays to go to the World Series. His absence is also a key reason they started 10-21.
"Everybody was excited about having him," said manager Marty Brown. "It was unfortunate he got hurt. It's part of the game but it's too bad because he was a main cog in that whole winter and then all of a sudden you lose him for an extended period of time. He's the type of guy who leads by example on the field. His professionalism and work ethic is what I saw in the spring. Any time you take a piece of the puzzle that has that much professionalism and plug it into your clubhouse, it's definitely a positive in all aspects."
Shi Davidi of Sportsnet has the word out of Toronto on Reyes after John Gibbons' pregame presser today.