When Talley Haines was selected last December by Toronto in the Rule 5 Draft, his potential path to major league baseball appeared to have cleared considerably.
But the Central High School graduate suffered a blow Tuesday when the Blue Jays sent him to Syracuse of the Class AAA International League, where he will start the season early next month.
"It's disappointing, but I guess that's the way it goes," said Haines from Florida, where the Blue Jays hold their spring training.
Haines, a right-handed relief pitcher, made four appearances covering 4 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays this spring, allowing six hits -- including two home runs -- and five earned runs for an ERA of 9.64. He struck out six and walked two.
"When you only throw four innings and give up a few runs, it makes your stats look worse," Haines said, "but I could have done a lot better."
A 1995 Central graduate, Haines was selected by Tampa Bay in the 25th round of the 1998 amateur draft after his junior season at Freed-Hardeman, an NAIA school in Tennessee.
Haines spent the past six seasons in the Tampa Bay organization, including the last three at Class AAA Durham. Working primarily in middle relief last year, he was 5-3 with two saves and a 2.53 ERA. He allowed 57 hits in 67 2/3 innings, with 64 strikeouts and 11 walks.
Despite putting up solid numbers throughout his minor-league career, Haines was frustrated that the Devil Rays never gave him a chance to pitch in the major leagues. He thought his opportunity finally came when the Blue Jays acquired him -- and he's still hopeful that it will.
"Toronto has definitely shown interest in me and I feel like if I go to Syracuse and pitch well, I'll eventually have a chance," Haines said.