KANSAS CITY — When he jogged into the Buffalo Bisons dugout after the second inning of a game Thursday night in Syracuse, Ian Parmley overheard his manager, Bobby Meacham, telling one of his teammates they were taking over in right field.
“I’m like, wait,” Parmley says. “I’m in right field.”
The next thing Meacham did was take Parmley back into the tunnel between the clubhouse and dugout to tell him he was going to the big leagues.
“I kind of lost it a little bit,” Parmley says. “It’s a dream come true. I’ve been waiting for this moment since I was five years old.”
Parmley joins the Blue Jays for the beginning of their three-game series this weekend in Kansas City, with reliever Cesar Valdez optioned to Buffalo to open a spot on the 25-man roster. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons likes to get young players on their first call-up game action as quickly as possible, which is why Parmley’s name is written on Toronto’s lineup card Friday night in right field.
“He’s a good, solid baseball player — can run a little bit,” Gibbons said. “It’s a good opportunity for him.”
Selected by the Blue Jays in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, Parmley’s slowly worked his way up Toronto’s system, reaching triple-A this year at the age of 27. He hasn’t hit particularly well throughout the course of his professional career, batting .251/.334/.307 with 58 extra-base hits over 1,553 minor-league plate appearances.
But the left-handed hitter’s offensive numbers spiked suddenly last year in 92 games with the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats when he hit .294/.356/.379. This season with the Bisons, he was batting .289/.332/.369 with 13 multi-hit games while splitting time between centre and right field. Just two months into his 2017 season, he set a new career high for doubles with 10.
“I’ve just been refining my approach at the plate,” he says. “And getting consistent at-bats has helped a lot. Playing for Bobby Meacham has been a blast these last two years. I don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t for him.”
Another instructor Parmley credits strongly for his development is Blue Jays outfield and base running coordinator Tim Raines, who he’s worked closely with over the last several years.
“I feel like he’s taken my base running to the next level,” says Parmley, who’s stolen 11 bases this year in 60 games. “And he’s helped my reads in the outfield. I’ve been working really hard with him and he’s been helping me out a lot.”
Raines also had a strong hand in the minor-league growth of Dwight Smith and Anthony Alford, two other outfielders and strong baserunners who made their major-league debuts this year.
“Rock’s good — and they all love him,” Gibbons said. “The thing about Rock is he’s got time for everybody. I don’t care if you’re the top prospect or the kid that’s just filling out a team. They don’t come much better than him.”
Parmley started his career in centre, but has played a lot of right field over the last couple seasons and is comfortable in any of the three outfield spots. With Steve Pearce still recovering from a right knee contusion, there could be ample opportunity for Parmley to play this weekend.
Of course, the Blue Jays are in a slight roster crunch at the moment with Pearce still out and third baseman Josh Donaldson day-to-day with a knee injury of his own. Jose Bautista was also in need of a night off his feet Friday. The 36-year-old hasn’t missed a game this season and has played the Blue Jays’ last 36 in the field.
“We just needed another body. A healthy guy with all the injuries that we’ve had. Guys are banged up. We can’t play too short,” Gibbons said. “And, really, we’ve got some guys on our team who can use that DH spot every now and then. It gets kind of tough with [Kendrys] Morales being there and the way [Justin] Smoak’s been playing.”
But that won’t make Friday any less special for Parmley, whose parents flew into Kansas City from Seattle to watch their son make his big-league debut.
“There’s a little bit of butterflies, definitely,” Parmley said. “But it’s going to be a great time.”