The Toronto Blue Jays today announced that they have signed INF ANDY LaROCHE, C MIKE NICKEAS and LHP JUAN PEREZ to minor league contracts with invites to minor league spring training. All three players spent time with the Bisons in 2013.
LaROCHE played 104 games as the Bisons primary third baseman in 2013 and hit .271 (99-365) with 21 doubles, 12 home runs and 51 RBI. He finished 3rd on the club in doubles, home runs, RBI and qualifying average. He was responsible for two of the Bisons' five walk-off wins during the season and hit two home runs on April 7 in Rochester. The veteran infielder had 27 multi-hit performances and committed just nine errors in 89 starts and 231 total chances at third base (.961 fielding pct.).
NICKEAS played 58 games with the Bisons in 2013 before receiving a promotion to the Blue Jays after the conclusion of the Triple-A season. The catcher hit .166 (29-175) with 12 doubles, a home run and 11 RBI for the Herd. He is just the second catcher in the Bisons modern era to appear with the club in five consecutive seasons, matching Tom Prince (1988-1992). Nickeas threw out 23% of would-be base stealers (57 SB, 74 ATT) in his team-high 54 starts behind the plate. At the end of the season, he was voted by his teammates as the Bisons 2013 Joe DeSa Most Inspirational Player of the Year.
PEREZ pitched in 17 games with the Bisons to begin the season before a May 29 promotion to the Blue Jays and was 2-1 with a 0.86 ERA and three saves for the Herd. For the first two months of the season, Perez was one of the top relievers in the International League and allowed just 23 base runners (12 H, 11 BB) to 25 strikeouts in 21.0 Innings of work. He also didn't allow a hit to a left-handed hitter in 19 at-bats. Perez posted a 3.69 ERA in 19 appearances with the Blue Jays before having his season end with a ligament tear in his left elbow on August 9.