Bryan Bullington came into the big leagues with overblown expectations. Now, with the Triple- A Bisons, there are none.
It’s safe to say, the former Pirates No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft is OK with that.
“Obviously, there’s expectations in that situation, as anybody who is in that situation will tell you,” Bullington said. “There’s certain expectations you have to live up to.
“It was kind of a weird experience for me in Pittsburgh.”
It has been reported that the Pirates chose Bullington over the likes
of Prince Fielder, BJ Upton, Scott Kazmir and Nick Swisher because they
believed he would be easier to sign. And, though it was also reported
that Bullington projected to be, at best, a No. 3 starter when he made
it to the Majors, he hasn’t even lived up to that.
Bullington, who pitched at Ball State for two years, breezed through the early levels of the Minors before landing in Triple-A Indianapolis for the 2005 season. After going 9-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts, Bullington was dealt the worst news of his professional career: He had a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
Bullington had to go back to the basics and learn how to throw a baseball again.
“When you start your throwing program,” he said, “you can’t throw the ball 40 feet.”
Bullington eventually regained, what Bisons manager Torey Lovullo describes as a “big-league slider,” and made his return to the Pirates in 2007. He didn’t regain his old form, however, as he compiled an 11-9 record in 2007 and a 4-6 mark with a 5.52 ERA this season before the Pirates designated him for assignment early in July.
The Indians didn’t have much to lose when they picked up Bullington off waivers. With players such as Jeff Weaver, Morgan Ensberg and John Halama trying to rejuvenate their careers with the Bisons, the 27-year-old right-hander seemed like an easy fit on Lovullo’s helter skelter roster.
Since he arrived in Buffalo, Bullington has been shaky, but showed signs of hope in his last start Thursday against his former team. He tossed seven innings without giving up an earned run in a no-decision. He starts Monday against Lehigh Valley.
“Maybe he lost a little confidence and placed too much pressure on himself,” Lovullo said. I just know that him coming over here was probably a breath of fresh air with a new set of eyes and a new set of expectations.
Scotty too hotty
Akron’s Scott Lewis was named Bank of America Pitcher of the Week for the week ending Aug. 10. He went 1-0 with a no-decision in two starts, allowing just one run and five hits over 13 1/3 innings. He struck out 15 batters and walked just two.
Look for him to be in Lovullo’s rotation, wherever that rotation may be located, at the beginning of next season.
General manager Mark Shapiro was pretty giddy about acquiring catching prospect Carlos Santana in the deal that sent Casey Blake to the Dodgers. The early returns have likely taken that giddiness to a whole new level.
Santana, who came to the Tribe leading all Minor Leaguers in RBIs, is batting .398 (21-for-53) with six RBIs, six extra-base hits (two homers) and 18 runs in just 13 games with the K-Tribe (Kinston Indians).
Look for him to stay there the remainder of the season and become the everyday catcher with the Aeros next season.
– Andrew Gribble
Anthony Reyes, acquired from the Cardinals on July 26 (the same day the Indians shipped Casey Blake to the Dodgers), tossed eight innings and allowed just one run in the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons’ 2-1 win on Sunday. Reyes, who feuded with Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan before his departure, has posted a 2.77 ERA over his first two starts, adding eight strikeouts and four walks.
With Matt Ginter struggling in his fill-in role as Aaron Laffey looks to work out some kinks with the Bisons, Reyes could be on a fast track back to the big leagues. A former Baseball America Top 100 prospect in both 2005 and 2006, Reyes won Game 1 of the 2006 World Series. Thereafter, he struggled to maintain consistency, something the Indians and general manager Mark Shapiro will return with his change of scenery.
Speaking of Laffey, the lefty gets the start tonight against Indianapolis.
The gem of the Blake deal, Carlos Santana has continued his big year at Class A Kinston. He has hit safely in his past six games, batting .400 (10-for-25) with eight runs, a double, triple and a homer to go along with four RBIs.
As the Crowe flies
Trevor Crowe, recently promoted from Double-A Akron to Buffalo, is batting .286 (12-for-42) with 10 runs, a triple, four home runs and seven RBIs in his first nine
games with the Bisons.
At least that’s what the three players, along with the dubious player to be named later, will always be known as among Tribe fans.
Now that the former Tribe ace has stolen Indians’ fans hearts once again, as he took out a $12,780 full-page ad in the Plain Dealer to thank the fans for all their support, it seems appropriate to check in on the three prospects Milwaukee forked over.
Zach Jackson – Considered a throw-in, the right-handed starter, who came to Triple-A Buffalo toting a 1-5 record and 7.85 ERA has been dominant — albeit in just six appearances (two starts). The 25-year-old right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .155 off him.
Matt LaPorta – The reason general manager Mark Shapiro felt justified in the Sabathia trade, the right-handed slugger hasn’t necessarily lived up to his billing so far at Double-A Akron. But let’s give LaPorta the benefit of the doubt. It’s been a whirlwind month, which has included a trip to The Futures Game in New York, the death of his grandfather and an upcoming trip to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. The outfielder/first baseman notched the game-winning single Tuesday night against Binghamton. He is currently batting .212, a homer and seven RBIs.
Rob Bryson – The hard-throwing reliever seemed was doing well with the Class A Lake County Captains, but was just placed on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain. He is expected to miss the next several weeks. In six appearances, Bryson tossed 11 and 1/3 innings, allowing three runs and striking out nine. A troubling sign, perhaps, is that Bryson walked six batters before he went on the DL.
– Andrew Gribble
In their last year as the Indians Triple-A club, the Buffalo Bisons have had, well, an interesting season.
Not once have the Bisons finished below .500 since their affiliation began with the Tribe in 1994, but they’ll need quite a turnaround (48-60) to avoid going out with a thud.
The reason for the Bisons struggles has certainly been well-documented. Indians general manager Mark Shapiro has acknowledged the dry Tribe farm system, particularly at the Triple-A level, by trying to grab as many prospects as possible in the recent trades of CC Sabathia and Casey Blake. For the time being, though, the Bisons are left with a few potential prospects and a surplus of rehab projects for manager Torey Lovullo and his staff to tackle.
Here are a few of them:
Bryan Bullington – RHP – 27 – The former No. 1 draft pick from Ball State has struggled to amount to the potential the Pirates thought he had when they used the first overall pick in 2002 on him. The Indians are hoping he can find that magic with the Bisons. So far, not so good. In three starts, he is 0-1 with a 8.25 ERA.
Brendan Donnelly – RHP – 37 – The former lights-out reliever with the Angels landed with the Indians after Tommy John surgery knocked him out of baseball in 2007. Now finally with the Bisons, Donnelly has made two appearances, each an inning a piece.
John Halama – LHP – 36 – A 10-game winner with the Mariners from 1999-2001, Halama landed with the Bisons early in the season and has been impressive, compiling a 7-2 record and 4.15 ERA thus far.
Anthony Reyes – RHP – 26 – Acquired Saturday for Double-A reliever Luis Perdomo, Reyes will look to settled down in Buffalo, where he will become a full-time starter as the Indians hope to have him up with the big league club by the end of the season.
Jeff Weaver – RHP – 31 – Weaver’s sudden downward spiral from stardom landed him in Buffalo earlier this month. It was speculated that he would be immediately brought up in a spot start when Sabathia was dealt, but he wasn’t, and with the acquisition of Reyes and the emergence of David Huff, it looks like he shouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Morgan Ensberg – 3B – 33 – The player who combined to hit 59 home runs and drive in 159 runs over the 05-06 seasons with the Astros has been nowhere to be found. Picked up on the fly in early June, Ensberg has continued to struggle with the Bisons, hitting .179 with a homer and eight RBIs.
Tony Graffanino – 2B – 36 – The veteran second baseman, now with his seventh big-league club, underwent surgery in August for a torn meniscus and later in December for a torn ACL. He will now get more time in the lineup in Buffalo as everyday second baseman Andy Gonzalez was called up in the wake of Blake’s departure.
– Andrew Gribble