BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A slight breeze off Lake Erie, but more so Bo Bichette’s speed on the basepaths, caused the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop to lose his helmet and let his hair flow in all its glory at Buffalo’s downtown ballpark.
Bichette appeared close to his All-Star form Wednesday in the first game of his rehab assignment with the Bisons. The American League hits leader batted 2 for 3, driving a pair of singles to the opposite field as designated hitter for half of Buffalo’s 5-4 loss in 11 innings against the Rochester Red Wings. Bichette also tested the recovery of patellar tendinitis in his right knee with a sprint from first base to score a run in the second inning.
“I think it was a good first step, for sure,” Bichette said after leaving the game in the sixth inning. “Not going to lie, I was hoping I was stopped,” at third base, he said with a smile, “but it was a good first day to be able to to go from first to home. … That’s why I came here just so I could go 100% and see what it felt like. So I’m happy with it.”
Bichette had not played since hurting his knee running the bases in a July 31 game in Toronto. He is scheduled to play shortstop Thursday night in Buffalo. If all goes well, he will rejoin the big club Friday in Cincinnati. The Blue Jays are in a tight race for one of the AL wild-card playoff spots.
“I’m ready for it,” Bichette said. “This is the most fun time of the year. The adrenaline is going, the game’s matter, every at-bat matters, every pitch matters.”
Bichette is a familiar face in Buffalo. He spent four months with the Bisons in 2019, and returned during the 2020 and 2021 seasons when the Blue Jays took up residency at Sahlen Field during the coronavirus pandemic.
After the first planned game of Bichette’s rehab stint was rained out Tuesday, there was a strong walk-up crowd for Wednesday’s matinee under sunny skies. Lines at the gate stretched beyond first pitch at 1:08 p.m. Most of the paid attendance crowd announced at 9,851 were in their seats to cheer Bichette before his opening at-bat, a chopping groundout on the first pitch he saw batting second in the order.
“The fans seemed excited to see me,” Bichette said. “They gave me some cheers. That’s cool. It’s good to be back. It’s good to see some guys I haven’t seen in a while, good to see how they are doing. Obviously this is a step to get to where I want to be. But it’s cool.”
Bichette took batting and infield practice at Sahlen Field prior to Wednesday’s game.
“He’s out here on a Wednesday day game, and he’s taking ground balls before the game,” manager Casey Candaele told MiLB.com. “Just the dedication and making sure he hones his craft continually is good for any young player that is looking to see what it takes to be a big leaguer.”
Relief pitcher Chad Green, also on a rehab assignment, struck out the side in the fifth inning before allowing two hits and a run in the sixth. Green was in concussion protocol after getting hit in the head by ball during a game in Buffalo last week. … Another rehabbing reliever Trevor Richards struck out one batter and walked another in a scoreless seventh inning. … Orelvis Martinez, one of the top Blue Jays prospects in Buffalo, hit a 455-foot home run to tie the score at 3-3 in the sixth. … The first 2,000 fans attending Thursday’s game will receive Candaele bobbleheads.
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.