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Bisons Players Fueling Success in Toronto

Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose anchoring Jays outfield

Don’t look now, but the Toronto Blue Jays, the parent club of the Buffalo Bisons, are red hot right about now. Check that. White hot. They have been piling on a winning streak that has vaulted them to the top of the American League East, and they are beginning to match up to the huge expectations placed upon them when the franchise broke the bank last season, only to end up with a disappointing finish and a 20th season without an appearance in the playoffs.

More importantly, they are doing this with the constant movement of players between Toronto and AAA Buffalo. Many of the players who have contributed here are now getting it done for the Blue Jays. And despite all the chaos to the Buffalo roster just two months into the season, the Bisons are weathering all this pretty well also, and are right in the thick of things atop the very tight and competitive International League North Division.

With the Blue Jays continuing an already successful homestand this week at Rogers Centre, they have seven, count ‘em, seven players who began the season in Buffalo. Two of the players, Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose, are looking more and more like long term solutions in the Jays outfield. Remember that both Gose and Pillar had dreadful starts for the Herd in April, but they got their groove and managed to not only help the Bisons through the month of May, but have become mainstays of the big league lineup since their promotions.

Juan Francisco, who was the hottest player in Buffalo before his callup, has been anchoring third base despite his mainly offensive prowess. Jays manager John Gibbons has been shifting second basemen Brett Lawrie to third in defensive situations, while inserting another former Bison, Steve Tolleson, at second base.

While Marcus Stroman has been returned to Buffalo to rejoin the starting pitching rotation, Bisons pitcher Liam Hendriks has been called to Toronto, and was given the start this past Friday against the Oakland Athletics. Hendriks is seeking to regain his groove, after spending the past two seasons playing for the Minnesota Twins, where he manage only a 2-13 record with a whopping 6.06 ERA.

The result was a spectacular performance by Hendricks in his 2014 major league debut. He scattered three hits over 5 2/3 innings, earning his first win of the season in Toronto. Hendriks got the win with the help of a two run home run by Steve Tolleson. A beaming John Gibbons said, “I think he’s earned another start.”

Gibbons has been touting the concept of team work in his comments to the media. This past weekend he said he noticed “a different feel” in spring training. “I think we’ve really come together as a team,” he said. “I started to see that at the end of last year. One of the questions last year, when we brought in so many new guys, so many new faces into it, was how to try to form a team out of it. That doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it never happens.”

Meanwhile, back in Buffalo the hot new player to watch is outfielder Brad Glenn, who piled up a .450 average and entered the week with a ten game hitting streak. Since his promotion from AA New Hampshire on May 16, he has been a terror at the plate, and is the fourth Bisons player this season to post a double digit hit streak, the others being Kevin Pillar, Dan Johnson and Mumenori Kawasaki.

Right about now spirits and energy are soaring in both the Blue Jays and the Bisons clubhouses, and that energy along the Buffalo-Toronto shuttle might just be fueling success at both levels. The Bisons return home this Friday for home series against Syracuse and Toledo.

Curry Foley

Around the bases...

• Stars Wars night update: The popular promotion is set for Saturday, June 7, and the team announced last week that fewer than 3000 tickets and no more 4-packs remain for sale. The event will include character appearances on the field, laser light sabre sales, raffles of game worn jerseys and a spectacular post game fireworks display. Game time that night is set for 6:05pm, with the Bisons taking on the Syracuse Chiefs.

• What happened on May 25, 1882? Curry Foley, a member of the Buffalo Bisons, then playing in the National League (Yes Buffalo was a National League team at one time) became the first player in baseball history to hit for the cycle. The momentous achievement happened against the Cleveland Blues. The most recent Bison to hit for the cycle was Jim Negrych, who did it last April in a 27-9 win in Syracuse.

• And cheers to Shawn Hill, who got his first Bisons pitching win a week ago Sunday at Coca Cola Field in a dominant 7 inning performance. The special guest in the crowd was his two day old daughter Peyton. Said Manager Gary Allenson after the game, “The way Shawn pitched today, I think he should have a kid every five days.”

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