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Around the horn, evening edition

Think the Red Sox are a little desperate when the Yankees come to town tonight to open a three-game series? The teams play two more games next week in the Bronx -- then don't meet again until August.  The Red Sox need to make some hay this weekend. The Celtics and Bruins are big news in Boston this weekend too but the Sox still garner their share of the ink.

Stephen Strasburg's debut tonight in Syracuse officially became a sellout early this afternoon. The Chiefs normally sell about 4,000 tickets a night in Alliance Bank Stadium and, like most Triple-A teams, don't have nearly that many in the park many early-season nights. Not so tonight. It figures to be SRO with more than 12,000 in the house. I've been to Alliance Bank Stadium many times. Wonder how the parking lots are going to hold up to that kind of crowd.

Tonight's Twins-Orioles game is the first rainout at new Target Field -- thus making it the Twins' first rainout in the great outdoors since Sept. 20, 1980.

Desperation comes early for the Cubs. They've called up 20-year-old shortstop Carlin Castro from Double-A Tennessee. Yes, Double-A. He was hitting .376 in the Southern League. Let's see how he does in the National League.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Full house to see Strasburg tonight in Syracuse debut

Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals' megaprospect who was the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, makes his Triple-A debut tonight in Syracuse and the Chiefs are expecting a sellout in Alliance Bank Stadium.

Strasburg's move from Double-A is going to generate a huge amount of attention for the International League, as this story from MLB.com explains.  

How long will Strasburg be in Syracuse? Only a few starts. Cross your fingers. June 1 in Buffalo would be his sixth start and likely his last in Triple-A. Will he be here that long? I'll have some thoughts on Strasburg's schedule in Sunday's Inside Baseball column.

Here's a video of Strasburg's media day in Syracuse, courtesy of Syracuse.com.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Stephen Strasburg Arrives in Syracuse

Dickey back on Herd hill

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is on the mound for the Bisons tonight and it's chilly and windy at Coca-Cola Field. That was the combination last Thursday as well as Dickey retired the final 27 hitters in his one-hitter over Durham, which was the IL's top-hitting team until that game. The Bisons are playing a series finale tonight against Louisville, which is No. 13 in the league in both runs and average but coming off last night's 20-7 explosion against the  Herd.

Dickey (3-1, 2.33) will be trying to become the IL's fifth four-game winner. He leads the league with 38 2/3 innings pitched and has gone at least eight in four straight starts. If Dickey gets on another run of batters tonight, it will be neat to compare to the top streak in MLB history. That's the 45 straight set last year by Mark Buehrle of the White Sox in his perfect game against Tampa Bay and then by retiring the first 18 men in his next start.

The Bisons have two red-hot hitters in the middle of their order tonight. Reigning IL player of the week Mike Hessman is on a seven-game hitting streak, batting .345 in that span. He has 28 RBIs on the season, now second in pro ball to the 29 of Double-A Jacksonville's Mike Stanton.

Herd outfielder Chris Carter is on a  five-game streak and is 11 for 20 in that stretch. He's batting .348 for the season, sixth in the IL. Jesus Feliciano, who is not in tonight's lineup, is third in the IL at .362.

Here's the Buffalo lineup:

Jason Pridie, cf
Russ Adams, 2b
Mike Jacobs, 1b
Mike Hessman, 3b
Chris Carter, rf
Fernando Martinez, lf
Josh Thole, c
Ruben Tejada, ss
R.A. Dickey, p

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Nats shoot Strasburg to Syracuse and Buffalo start is in the offing

Pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, was promoted to Syracuse today by the parent Washington Nationals after making five starts at Double-A Harrisburg. He went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA, striking out an Eastern League-high 27 and walking just six in 22 innings. Pretty impressive stuff for the former San Diego State star with the $15.1 million contract and $7.5 million signing bonus in hand.

If you enjoyed seeingAroldis Chapman pitch against the Bisons Monday night and showcase his 100-mph fastball, it could be more of the same in a couple of weeks with Strasburg. The Chiefs hit town on Memorial Day for a four-game series. Strasburg will open with Syracuse Friday night against Gwinnett and the Syracuse Post-Standard makes the logical projection he would pitch in Buffalo on June 1.

For however long or short his stint is in Triple-A, the Chiefs are banking on Strasburg being big business


---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Stun gun

Don't you wish you had a dime for every video you've seen of a fan at a baseball game getting subdued by a Taser after running onto the field? Me too.

Here's how it looked on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, in the City of Brotherly Love:



---Greg Connors 

Final thoughts on Chapman

Chapman From what we saw in the early going here Monday night, Aroldis Chapman was worth every penny of the $30 million the Cincinnati Reds paid him. I've been coming to the ballpark since it opened in 1988 and only Bartolo Colon's no-hitter in 1997 showcased a more dominant fastball than Chapman had the first three innings. And Colon wasn't hitting 100 mph on the radar gun either.

That said, the Bisons caught up to Chapman the second time through the order. His slider and changeup were not big-league quality on this night. That allowed them to sit and wait for fastballs. You can hit 95-98 mph if you're just waiting for it and the Herd did during its five-run fourth.

If you missed our live blog from the game,you can catch up with it here.

A learning experience. It will be like that from time to time for Chapman, who nonetheless seems destined for a long major-league career. Good to see folks lining the bullpen to watch him warm up. Those paying close attention who came early to get a good view will always remember this night when he's up in the big leagues.

Chapman has huge -- and I mean huge -- hands and incredibly long fingers. He came to his postgame press conference wearing a huge gold watch and bracelet and a diamond earring as well as top-shelf shoes and sweater. He was smiling and friendly during a 13-minute exchange with the media that went until nearly 11 p.m.

It's like this in every city for him. And it will certainly be multiplied many times over when he gets to the major leagues. Reds fans should be happy they have a gem. I would expect him to get plenty of starts in Cincinnati in the second half of this season and he will be a huge story to watch in the bigs down the road.

---Louisville's 20 runs set a ballpark record, breaking the mark of 18 set by Pawtucket in 1998. The Bats' 24 hits broke the mark of 22 downtown, set by two previous Buffalo opponents. The Herd's modern-era record for runs against is 22 (in a 22-6 loss to Oklahoma City at War Memorial Stadium in 1987), and the most hits it has allowed is 25 against Omaha in 1985, also at the Rockpile.

Said manager Ken Oberkfell: "It just happens. It's unfortunate we scored the five runs [in the fourth] and gave it right back the next inning [when the Bats scored six in the fifth]. It took the wind out of us. The good thing about this game is that it's just one game, it's over with and no one got hurt."

---The 27 combined runs were the third-highest in the ballpark's 23 seasons. Buffalo won the top two games, 17-16 over Scranton in 1998 and 15-14 over Pawtucket in 2007 (thanks to its memorable nine-run ninth)

---The Bisons conclude the homestand Tuesday night when knuckleballer R.A. Dickey takes the mound. It's his first start since Thursday's, 1-hour, 45-minute one-hitter against Durham. Since then, we've endured Friday's 3:30 marathon against Durham and Monday's 3:29 special that seemed destined for four hours until we zipped through the final two innings.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Photo: Chapman works against the Herd Monday/James P. McCoy-Buffalo News

Live from the ballpark: Reds' megaprospect Chapman faces Bisons

All eyes are going to be on the radar gun tonight in Coca-Cola Field as Cuban hurler Aroldis Chapman is on the mound for Louisville against the Bisons. The left-hander is 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his four starts, with 22 strikeouts and 12 walks in 21 innings.

Chapman hit 102 mph on the gun in his most recent start last week at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The fastest anyone has ever hit here was 102, by former Toledo reliever Matt Anderson. Bartolo Colon once brought his fastball to 101. So this should be interesting.

Keep it on this post for updates on Chapman's outing. He'll be trying to break Louisville's nine-game losing streak while the Bisons are trying to win their fifth in a row.

Here's the Buffalo lineup:

Jesus Feliciano, lf
Andy Green, 3b
Fernando Martinez, cf
Mike Hessman, 1b
Chris Carter, rf
Omir Santos, c
Alex Cintron, ss
Ruben Tejada,  2b
Tobi Stoner, p

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Buf-1st: So that's what all the fuss is about. Chapman hit 100 mph twice in a 1-2-3 inning, including a wicked fastball on the outside corner that leadoff man Jesus Feliciano took for a called third strike. When the "100 mph" flashed on the message board, there were audible gasps and applause from the crowd. Chapman threw 12 pitches and 10 were 97 mph or above. Ten also went for strikes. The Bats scored a run in the top of the first off Tobi Stoner and lead, 1-0.

Mid-2nd: Chapman, of all people, puts the Bats into a 2-0 lead with a two-out RBI double past third into the left-field corner. Reds folk can exhale because he went in standing up. It's his second hit for the Bats and first for extra bases.

End-2nd: Chapman got Mike Hessman on a fly ball to center before walking Chris Carter. Omir Santos (popup to second) and Alex Cintron (liner to center) then were retired on the first pitch. Top speeds of that inning were two deliveries at 98. Two innings: 25 pitches, 18 strikes, 12 at 97 mph or above.

Mid-3rd: Herd starter Tobi Stoner didn't rise to the occasion of facing Chapman. He's gone after 2 2/3, giving up five runs on 11 hits -- two to Chapman as the Bats starter singled as part of the three-run third. The Bats added one more on an error on Buffalo third baseman Andy Green but Chapman was out trying to go first-to-third on the ball, again not sliding. Bats lead, 6-0. Louisville has 11 hits. Buffalo has none off Chapman.

End-3rd: Feliciano gets Buffalo's first hit, a two-out double to right-center on a 97-mph heater. Chapman had struck out Ruben Tejada on and 84-mph slider and then fanned reliever Adam Pettyjohn on a 3-2 fastball clocked at 92. It was Pettyjohn's first at-bat of the season. Poor guy. No way he came to the park tonight expecting to hit against Chapman. Andy Green took a 1-1 pitch near the chin at 99 mph. Yeesh. One pitch later, he swung through a 100-mph offering for strike three. Chapman struck out the side in that inning. He's allowed one hit and struck out four through three innings: 43 pitches, 29 strikes, 17 at 97 mph or above, three at 100.

End-4th: The Bats got one in the top of the inning but the Bisons solved Chapman in the bottom with five runs on six hits to make it a 7-5 game. Chapman seemed to fall apart after Alex Cintron's strikeout/passed ball on catcher Corky Miller scored Buffalo's second run. Ruben Tejada, pitcher Adam Pettyjohn and Feliciano followed with RBI singles.  Chapman threw 33 pitches in that inning, 19 for strikes. He's at 76-50 through four. Highest one on the gun was his first pitch, a 100-mph ball to Martinez. 76 pitches, 50 strikes, 22 at 97 or above, four at 100.

Mid-5th: The Bats just answered with six runs on four hits to go up 13-5. Seriously. Chapman walked and scored in the inning. He's 2 for 2 with a walk in the game. It's only taken 1:54 to play 4 1/2 innings -- or nine minutes longer than R.A. Dickey's one-hitter Thursday night.

End-5th: The Bisons get another run to make it 13-6 and Chapman is out after 99 pitches, 65 strikes, 23 at 97 or above and four at 100. His final line will be 5-9-6-6-1-8. His ERA will go from 1.29 to 3.12. He had allowed just six runs combined (only three earned) in his previous four starts. The eight strikeouts were one shy of his season high.

Chapman's fastball is dynamite, big-league ready for sure. His secondary stuff was all over the place tonight. Allows batters to sit and wait for a fastball. Buffalo hitters really caught up to him the second time through the order.

Mid-6th: The Bats score five more runs -- all after two out -- to make it 18-6. That equals the all-time record for runs by one team in the ballpark's 23 seasons.  Louisville has 21 hits, one shy of the ballpark mark. Yeesh.

Mid-8th: Louisville leads, 20-7. The Bats have broken the ballpark records for both runs and hits (24). The modern-era records against Buffalo are 22 runs (by Oklahoma City in 1987) and 25 hits (by Omaha in 1985).  The Bats have 11 doubles and two home runs. One inning to go.

Final: Bats win, 20-7, with 24 hits.

Ex-Bison Roberts, Sox '04 hero, stricken with lymphoma

Some sobering news out of San Diego today as Dave Roberts, the Bisons' modern-era stolen base leader and the man whose theft of second base in 2004 changed the course of Red Sox history, has been undergoing treatment for lymphoma.

According to the Associated Press story linked above, Roberts was diagnosed in mid-March and has a good prognosis after two rounds of chemotherpay. He is currently working for the Padres as a special assistant after spending last season in the Red Sox broadcast booth.

Roberts never needs a reservation in any Boston restaurant after stealing second in the bottom of the ninth off Mariano Rivera and scoring the tying run in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS. That allowed the Red Sox to stave off elimination and eventually win that game in extra innings -- starting an eight-game winning streak that culminated in Boston's first World Series title in 86 years.

Roberts was called up to the Bisons late in the 1998 season and played parts of four years with the Herd. He had back-to-back 39-steal seasons for Buffalo in 1999 and 2000, and batted .303 for the Bisons in 2001. He has 97 stolen bases for the Bisons -- 30 more than any player.

Roberts is one of the great guys in the game. It was great to see him get all the accolades he got in '04 and he handled the attention with the same kind of grace he showed when he worked in relative anonymity in Buffalo.

UPDATE: In a conference call this evening with San Diego and Boston reporters, Roberts said "My spirits continue to be high and I expect to beat this fully."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Hessman named IL player of the week

Bisons slugging third baseman Mike Hessman has been named International League Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday after cracking four more home runs and helping push the Herd into first place in the IL North.

Hessman had 14 RBIs in the week to push his total to 28 and take over the lead in all of professional baseball. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers is next with 27.

Hessman homered twice Tuesday at Pawtucket, belted a grand slam Friday against Durham and had four RBIs Sunday against the Bulls, including a two-run homer and a key two-run single in the 10th that tied the game and set the stage for Chris Carter' walkoff homer.

The 32-year-old is batting .302 for the season with eight homers and 28 RBIs. He's second in the league in home runs this year and remains the active minor-league leader with 319.

Hessman and the Bisons are home tonight at 7:05 against Louisville and Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman, the star Cincinnati prospect.

The IL Pitcher of the Week was Norfolk righty Chris Tillman, who threw the league's first nine-inning no-hitter since 2006 when he shut down Gwinnett on Wednesday night.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

A-Rod out today with sore knee

Joel Sherman, the venerable columnist/blogger from the New York Post, has just reported that Alex Rodriguez is out of today's game against the White Sox due to a sore knee. The Yankees pinch-ran for A-Rod in the ninth inning of Saturday's loss but the injury is not believed to be serious.

The Yankees also announced today that Curtis Granderson has a Grade 2 strain of his right groin and will probably miss a month. That means Randy Winn better show something because he's going to get a lot of at-bats.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharington

Bisons aim for four straight

Greetings from Coca-Cola Field, where the Buffalo Bisons continue their eight-game homestand today against the Louisville Bats. The Bisons are aiming for their first four-game winning streak of the season, and first since July 8-11, 2009.

It's a warm, even muggy, early May Sunday. The anticipated thunderstorms have held off so far, but could become an issue about 3 p.m. Before then, Bisons righty Dillon Gee will aim for his fourth win of the season against Louisville lefty Travis Wood.

A couple quick lineup notes: Jesus Feliciano, who's fourth in the International League in batting with a .371 average is out, as is Fernando Martinez.

Here's the Herd's lineup:

Jason Pridie, CF

Andy Green, 2B

Mike Jacobs, 1B

Mike Hessman, 3B

Chris Carter, RF

Mike Cervenak, LF

Omir Santos, C

Ruben Tejada, SS

Gee, P

---Jay Skurski

Bisons activate Dessens

The Buffalo Bisons today announced that right-hander Elmer Dessens has been activated off the team’s disabled list. Dessens was placed on the DL with a left hamstring strain on April 23 and missed eight games.

To make roster room, the Mets announced that left-hander Travis Blackley has been released. Dessens, 39, is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA and two saves in five relief appearances for the Bisons this year. He’s tied the team lead in both wins and saves. Dessens left the Bisons' game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on April 20 in the ninth inning after delivering a called strike three to Chad Huffman. Dessens saved a team-high 11 games for Buffalo in 2009 before pitching in 28 games with the New York Mets.

Blackley posted an 8.53 ERA in four appearances and 61/3 innings of work for the Herd.

Here is the starting lineup for today's game against the Louisville Bats:

Jason Pridie, cf
Jesus Feliciano, lf
Mike Jacobs, 1b
Mike Hessman, 3b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Russ Adams, 2b
Josh Thole, c
Ruben Tejada, ss
Bobby Livingston, p

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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