Ex-Jay Wallace looks for swing in Buffalo
* Brett Wallace, a No. 1 pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 and a Blue Jays farmhand in 2010 is back in the Toronto system at triple-A Buffalo. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in Minors … Canadians in college summer ball …. Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
BUFFALO, NY - The first time Brett Wallace was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays organization, the club was in somewhat of a transition phase.
Alex Anthopoulos had just been hired as the team’s general manager, taking over for J.P. Ricciardi, who was fired after eight seasons.
One of the current GM’s first moves from the top was to trade Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Taylor. The latter player was then flipped to the Oakland Athletics for Wallace. Wallace was eventually traded to the Houston Astros for Anthony Gose, but Toronto reacquired him last month from the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations.
“I was a little surprised,” Wallace said. “But obviously I knew some of the coaches, players and some of the guys in the front office, so there was kind of a comfort level in that, coming back here. I’m excited to get a new opportunity here.”
Though it’s been a few years – and a couple of other organizations – since the 27-year-old was with the Blue Jays, he says it still feels the same. Plus the club is perhaps a little closer now to where it wanted to be then.
“Last time when I was here there was a little bit of turnover, new front office, new direction,” Wallace said. “And now they’re pushed a little bit toward that direction that they were aiming. Now the team is being successful up there, they’re in a race.
“There are a lot of good players here that there’s not always opportunity for up there because there are so many good players up there. I think the organization has taken a big step toward the way they want it to [go]. It’s a little different [than last time] but it’s still the same concept, same feel, as far as that goes.”
One thing that is different from the last time, however, is where Toronto’s Triple-A club makes its home. Wallace previously played for the Las Vegas 51s in the Pacific Coast League as a Blue Jays prospect, and now finds himself on the farm with the Buffalo Bisons in the International League.
“When I first heard, I was thinking it would be the same,” he said. “Then I started thinking more about it. It’s definitely a little weird. I’ve never played in the [International League] before so this is my first year over here and I didn’t even know the city of Buffalo.
“I’d never been here, even as a visitor or anything, so it was definitely a bit of an adjustment. But it seems like a good city and the fans are pretty passionate about the team, so it will be good.”
The corner infielder and designated hitter with 311 games split over four seasons in the big leagues began this season with the Astros, his home for the majority of his seven-year professional career. Released by Houston out of spring training, the Orioles gave Wallace a chance with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides before Toronto picked him up again.
“I had an apartment in Norfolk, where I was, and stuff, but it’s not too bad,” Wallace said of the movement. “The hardest thing was obviously when I was in Houston I would have a permanent residence set up that I was at all the time. But this season I didn’t have anything too crazy. I had an apartment but it wasn’t as hard to move as years past.
“This one was a little easier, but it’s definitely a little bit different when you have to pack everything up mid-season and meet a new team and start playing right away. It’s part of the territory and you get used to it.”
Through 11 games with the Bisons, the former first-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals is hitting .263/.333/.342 for the Herd with one home run and four RBIs in 38 at-bats. Buffalo manager Gary Allenson thinks it might just take a little more time to get Wallace firing on all cylinders.
“He really doesn’t have it clicking yet at the plate,” Allenson said. “He had a little bit of time off there so I think he’s just kind of [adjusting] to it and getting his timing back. He’ll be out there a lot. He’s doing a good job so far.”
Wallace believes it won’t take long for everything to fall into place.
“Part of it is getting back here and finding a place to live and getting settled in and getting to know the team a little bit,” he said. “Anytime you start playing for a new team you have to find out everyone’s personality and the way they go about their business and find a rhythm in that. So for me that’s the biggest thing, just finding my rhythm and getting comfortable again and starting to play.”
Playing first base primarily with Buffalo so far, Wallace also has to get used to the way each of the other infielders throw across the diamond at him, who’s throwing what, how it’s coming at him, and what to do with it.
“It’s definitely a little different,” the California native said. “Normally you have either spring training or whatever it might be to really get to know someone. Right now it’s a little bit, you’re out on the field and trying to see things, take them as they go, and talk about things as they come up.
“It makes things go a little quicker because you really have to try and find things out on the fly. But I think we’ve all played this game long enough that we can adapt.”
With plenty of time at the hot corner over the last few seasons, there’s always a possibility that Wallace could see time across the diamond as well.
“The last two years, I’ve played a lot of third,” he said. “I played either 20 or 25 starts both years in the big leagues and then a bunch in the minor leagues. This year I probably have 10 or 15 starts there so I’m fairly comfortable. There’s always a little bit of a rhythm factor of getting back over there once or twice in a row and feeling that rhythm over there, but I definitely feel fine going back over.”
Could he be spending time at third base in Buffalo anytime soon?
“That’s a great question; I don’t really know to be honest,” Wallace said. “[Allenson] asked me when I first got here if I had been doing it at all, which I had this year a little bit, so it’s always a possibility if they need it. For the most part I’ll probably play first and DH and maybe if something comes up, play a little third.”
Either way, Wallace is enjoying his time with the Bisons so far, making a new home for himself and happy to be on a winning team.
“It’s fun,” he said. “We had struggled a little bit in Norfolk, so it’s fun to come over here. These guys obviously have a good rhythm going and a good vibe. It’s a good clubhouse, all the guys are pretty laid-back and fun-loving, so it’s good to be a part of and fun to be a part of a team that’s on a roll right now.”
-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis