Buffalo's Own Jim Negrych and the "Wow" Factor
by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
It was about two weeks ago when the Buffalo Bisons were heading to Rochester to play a pair. Jim Negrych stepped up to the plate, and the up-to-the-minute statistic flashed on the scoreboard: “At bats: 44. Hits: 22. Average: .500.”
That’s five hundred.
When the Toronto Blue Jays signed Negrych to a minor league contract last fall, most expected this as a goodwill gesture from the parent team to their new AAA affiliate—bringing in a hometown boy to spark interest and sell tickets and be just a good guy to have around.
But the 28-year-old Negrych, a product of St. Francis High School and seven-year career minor leaguer, put up some astounding numbers in spring training, batting .412 and hitting two home runs. Not being part of the Jays’ 40-man roster, he was optioned to Buffalo, and six weeks into the season he has continued to astound.
As of this weekend, his batting average remains in eye popping territory, .427, which leads all of minor league baseball. He has 12 multi-hit games this year, three home runs, and 12 doubles.
“Of course he’s getting attention with the big club,” said manager Marty Brown. “They’d have to create roster space to move him up, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he got a look in Toronto at some point.”
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has spoken about Negrych on each of his visits to Buffalo. “He’s a much better player than even we realized,” said Anthopoulos. “I think the people in Buffalo can appreciate that while getting to watch him here day in and day out.”
Negrych is taking all of this one day at a time, and with a straight face will tell you he has no day-to-day thoughts of stepping into a Blue Jays uniform and making his major league debut. “It’s not something you think about. You thing about executing, of playing well at the plate, and I’m working on every pitch and every at bat, and also working with the cast of guys who are in the lineup ahead of me and behind me, and just want to be there ready to hit, and hit the barrel with the ball.”
“You’d have to ask Marty that,” was Negrych’s reply when asked if he has had any feedback about a possible callup. “It’s not my problem. It’s not anything I can do. I just got to go out there and keep hitting. This is something that I can’t control, and when you can’t control it you just got to stop thinking about it. I’ve got enough going on here the minute I start weighing on this stuff is when things will start to slide and I don’t want that to happen.”
Brown admitted that the coaching staff is working with Negrych on elevating his game from the defensive standpoint to match his offensive prowess. Negrych says it’s still about offense. “It’s just executing, getting into my hitting position, executing my swing, and getting my balls in the air. This sounds repetitive but it’s all about just producing when needed.”
Up in Toronto, the red hot expectations that the Blue Jays had going into the season have disappeared in a hurry, as the team is dead last in the AL East and close to last place in team batting in the American League. Speculation is rampant that Negrych’s hot bat may be just the tonic to get things going with the big club. “All we can do is play him just about every day and have him ready to go if the call comes,“ said Brown. “But make no mistake, his hot bat is elevating the entire team and making everyone else play better. It’s fun to watch. Let’s see how much longer he can keep this up.”
.412 through the month of March in practice baseball. .427 through six weeks of the regular season. A flash in the pan or a major league dream in the making? Like Marty Brown said, this will be fun to watch.
Around the Bases...
• Anthony Gose stole home last week in a game against the Norfolk Tides, and the play was so blatantly not even close that the highlight video made it to ESPN SportsCenter’s top 10 plays the next day. But not without some home team prodding, as team PR director Brad Bisbing alertly sent the highlight reel footage to the network within minutes of it happening down in the field.
• Congratulations to Bisons manager Marty Brown, who became the winningest manager in the team’s modern era two weeks ago in Rochester. When asked how it felt eclipsing the records of such luminaries as Brian Graham, Eric Wedge, and Terry Collins, Brown selflessly replied, “It just means I’ve been around here longer than the rest of them.”blog comments powered by Disqus
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