Buffalo — The Buffalo Bisons have a wall of fame in their clubhouse.
It features framed photographs of the 43 players they’ve had in uniform over their 26 seasons that have gone on to solid major league careers.
“To the Show … ” is the heading.
It’s not exhaustive. Spots on the wall are determined each off-season over a spirited lunchtime debate between longtime media relations director Brad Bisbing, clubhouse manager Scott Lesher and general manager Mike Buczkowski.
By their informal rule major leaguers on injury rehabilitation assignments are not eligible.
Jose Reyes may be an exception to that rule. On Wednesday in Tampa he’ll become the Bisons next major league graduate as he rejoins the Blue Jays after missing 10 weeks with a badly sprained ankle.
“I’m ready to go, I can do everything on the field they ask me to do,” Reyes said after bringing his rehab assignment to a close by going 2 for 4 Monday night for Buffalo, bumping his average with the Bisons to .412 to go with the .414 average he managed in Dunedin. The Blue Jays will be happy if he merely picks up at the .395 clip he was hitting at before he was hurt stealing a base in the 10th game of the season.
Reyes says he’s ready to jump right back into the lineup.
“My concern before coming here was my running — how I was going to run the bases and all of that, and everything is fine. I’m not worried about my timing because I work hard on my swing. But everything was fine,” Reyes said.
The Toronto Blue Jays star shortstop’s stay in Buffalo was brief but impactful. He played four games against the visiting Durham Bulls and was supposed to head from there to Manchester, New Hampshire for a start Wednesday with the double-A Fisher Cats and then join the Blue Jays in Boston on Thursday.
But with general manager Alex Anthopoulos on hand to watch, Reyes showed enough that the Blue Jays decided to activate him late Tuesday night.
He’ll play against Tampa Bay on Wednesday before Toronto’s pivotal four-game series against the AL East-leading Red Sox that opens Thursday in Boston.
That it’s taken this long has nothing to do with Anthopoulos being hesitant to mess with his club’s chemistry during their season-transforming winning streak that reached a franchise high 11 games.
“Jose Reyes makes every team better,” said Anthopoulos, who drove from Toronto to Buffalo to see Reyes and also keep an eye on struggling starter Ricky Romero, who was chased after 3.1 innings having given up five runs in a 7-1 Bisons loss.
“(Reyes) is great in the clubhouse, he brings all those things,” Anthopoulos said before the game. “The minute we think he’s ready to play every day and we don’t have to sit him on certain days and all of that, whether we’ve won 11 in a row or 20 in a row, we’ll welcome him back, fast.”
That minute was last night.
Anthopoulos said he didn’t want to bring Reyes back before he was ready in part because it’s such a struggle to keep him out of the lineup if he needs to get rest once he does come back.
“It was about him playing nine innings as much as we can strictly because he’s the type when he’s back he does not want to take a day off; it is a fight,” Anthopoulos said.
“In spring training we had a meeting, we asked him about days off, maybe a day game after a night game, and he was like: “Day off?” He looked at us like we had five eyeballs. ‘No, no, no. I don’t want any days off.’”
Reyes says fatigue won’t be an issue.
“I’m not worried about (my stamina),” he said. “When I did my rehab I worked hard to keep my body strong. I feel strong no matter how many (games) I play. When I get on the field I don’t like to take a day off. If the skipper wants to give me a day off, I’m going to fight with the skipper. When I’m there I want to play every day.”
The Blue Jays will doubtless get a jolt upon his return; even after spending just four days in Buffalo, he made his presence felt.
“I’m going to miss the little fella,” joked Bisons manager Marty Brown. “He’s always got that smile on his face. He brings that wherever he goes and he’s going to be a huge spark for Toronto.”
“He’s been the easiest, most congenial major league rehabber I’ve ever had,” said Bisbing, who made a point of telling Reyes just that before Monday’s game, to which Reyes responded with a hug and a sincere thank you.
He may not get a picture on the Bisons clubhouse wall of fame, but Reyes is most certainly heading for The Show and he couldn’t be more excited.
“I can’t wait. I missed two months of doing what I love to do. I feel like I’m ready right now,” he said. “I want to be part of what the team is doing. “
He’s joining a different team than the one he left. Prior to their recent 11-game surge the Blue Jays went 23-30 without him in their lineup. They played their worst baseball in the first month after his injury as they lost 15 of their next 21 on their way to a 10-21 record on May 4, a hole they’ve been climbing out of ever since.
Could he have made a difference? Starting pitching has been far and away the most significant element in the Blue Jays’ recent success, but much has been made of the contributions of the likes of Munenori Kawasaki, the feel-good utility infielder from Japan who has chipped in with some key plays but also contributed with an effervescent clubhouse presence.
It’s worth remembering that Reyes has many of those same qualities as well as being one of the best fielding and hitting shortstops in baseball. Reyes can’t lift a team alone, but perhaps he could have helped the Blue Jays from falling so far behind.
“I can’t tell that,” he said. “But I try to be me every single day. Guys like to be around me because I bring a lot of energy and I’m always happy and trying to enjoy the game the most that I can. That’s me, that’s the Jose Reyes that everyone knows.”
He’s made himself felt on the field, playing three nine-inning games at shortstop for Buffalo and nine innings as DH. As far as Bisons manager Marty Brown can tell, he’s ready for his call up.
“He’s done a little bit of everything since he’s been here,” Brown said. “He’s hit a double; he’s gone first-to-third and slid in headfirst; he’s stolen a base. He’s had some good at-bats, his timing pretty close to 100 per cent if it’s not 100 per cent.”
Reyes’ career with the Bisons is over; he got the call to the big club. He won’t get his picture on the clubhouse wall, but he won’t be forgotten.
In four games the Bisons drew 48,802 fans, their best cumulative crowd for a four-game series since 2001. Now it’s Blue Jays fans who again get to see what all the excitement is about.