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Bisons look to pack away a win before hitting the road

Looking like a nice night for a fridaynightbash!. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)

The Buffalo Bisons have lost three straight, nine of their last 11 and are 1-6 on an eight-game homestand that ends tonight. With a season-long, 10-game, four-city road trip starting tomorrow, a win for the Herd sure would help their traveling mood. 

The Bisons look to avoid a four-game sweep by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees at 7:35 tonight during the usual fridaynightbash! at Coca-Cola Field. 

Bisons righty Dylan Owen (4-5, 4.44 ERA) pitches against righty Andrew Brackman (2-6, 7.22) of the Yankees, who have won six straight. The Herd has lost five straight to Scranton, including Thursday's 6-3 loss.

Here is tonight's Bisons lineup:

Fernando Perez cf
Luis Figueroa dh
Josh Satin 3b
Valentino Pascucci 1b
Nick Evans lf
Mike Baxter rf
Luis Hernandez 2b
Ruben Tejada ss
Dusty Ryan c
--
Dylan Owen p

And for those who are fans of duhhhhhhh Yankees (John Sterling pronounciation), here is Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (my bad -- chest tap -- for not doing that last night):

Kevin Russo lf
Austin Krum cf
Jesus Montero c
Mike Lamb dh
Jorge Vazquez 1b
Brandon Laird 3b
Jordan Parraz rf
Luis Nunez 2b
Doug Bernier ss
--
Andrew Brackman p

Evans rejoined the Bisons today after clearing waivers following being sent down by the parent New York Mets. Infielder Michael Fisher has been sent down to Double-A Binghamton. Evans is likely to rejoin the Mets once he is eligible to be re-promoted to the majors; to do so he needs to have spent the required 10 days in the minors. Evans was designated for assignment on July 23 when David Wright was activated from the disabled list. 

After some scattered storms in town earlier in the day, downtown skies are clear and sunny at this writing (5:35 p.m.).

* * * 

Sidenote: In checking up on the New York Yankees organ-i-zation (hockey pronounciation) the last couple of days, I've checked out the ESPN.com's Yankee blog and been entertained big-time by Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews writing it like it is when it comes to Yankee manager Joe Girardi in front of a microphone.

Check out today's post regarding Ivan Nova starting during Saturday's doubleheader and Wednesday's regarding competition for the fifth starter spot between Nova and Phil Hughes. In the latter, Marchand wrote, "the manager performed his usual, 'Who's on First?' routine when he wouldn't reveal a mundane fact."

Great stuff. I've caught that vibe in Girardi's televised meetings with the media and even his pregame radio interviews. I don't envy having to listen to/decipher it every day.

* * * 

The game had a rather bizarre start, but a good finish for the Bisons in an 8-5 victory. Here's the game story.

The Bisons hit the road on a bus trip to Allentown, Pa., after the game, but there were plenty of folks remaining at the park -- overnight, in fact.

An outfield full of Girl Scouts. Pass the Thin Mints. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)

It was Girl Scout Campout night and the troopers took over the outfield and were watching the movie "Tangled" on the tremendous HD scoreboard as I left the park a little before midnight.

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

Bisons have Chicken for dinner

The Buffalo Bisons had a new first base coach Thursday night -- the Famous Chicken. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)
Plenty of people downtown tonight to see a pair of funky characters.

While P-Funker George Clinton performs a few blocks away at Canalside for Thursday in the Square, the Famous Chicken is making his annual appearance at Coca-Cola Field tonight as the Buffalo Bisons host the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees at 7:05.

The Chicken, a native of San Diego ( :-) ), will provide some guaranteed smiles at a park where Bisons fans haven't been grinning so much of late. The Yankees have won the first two games of a four-game set, including Wednesday afternoon's 3-2 loss on a ninth-inning homer. The Bisons stand at 1-5 on an eight-game homestand which will come to a close Friday night.

Mark Cohoon (3-6, 6.20 ERA) goes for the Bisons tonight; the Mets 2010 Organizational Pitcher of the Year has started 10 games and has surrendered at least three earned runs in all but one of them. He's opposed by Greg Smith (3-2, 5.45).

Here is today's Bisons lineup:

Luis Figueroa ss
Fernando Perez cf
Valentino Pascucci 1b
Jason Botts lf
Josh Satin 3b
Mike Baxter rf
Luis Hernandez 2b
Jesus Feliciano rf
Raul Chavez c
--
Mark Cohoon p

Catcher Mike Nickeas was called up to the Mets today, which prompted the promotion of backstop Dusty Ryan from Double-A Binghamton to Buffalo. The move is likely a temporary one as the Mets may recall Nick Evans, who cleared waivers on Wednesday. Once Evans has spent the required 10 days in the minors he'll be eligible to be re-promoted to the majors.

There are some thunderstorms in the forecast and a bit of grey above, but all is well at this writing (5:56 p.m.).

* * * 

Postgame: The Bisons fell, 6-3. Here's the game story.

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

Around the horn: Mets, Meals, mound magic

Lots of tasks cluttering my mind that include (gasp) a Bills column for Friday's paper. I'll have some thoughts on free agency, especially how Darcy Regier simply has a much easier road than Buddy Nix at this point in time. But there's never "out of time" when it comes to baseball and I've got a few thoughts here:

---Wish the Mets could have gotten more help for the '12 Bisons in exchange for Carlos Beltran. That said, the word is that Zach Wheeler is a solid pitching prospect and GM Sandy Alderson said today they went for one high-ceiling prospect (Wheeler was the No. 6 pick in 2009), rather than a package of three-lower prospects. Maybe he sneaks to Buffalo in the second half of next year. We'll see. 

---Wonder what, if anything, the Yankees do this week for pitching. Especially since Phil Hughes couldn't even beat the 17-loss-in-a-row Mariners in yet another game that showed the Yankees could use Felix Hernandez.

---How about a suspension when umpires make an obvious mistake? Can't think of any candidates offhand .... Can you, Jerry Meals?

---I love this MLB.com collection of calls on the Meals video from both teams' crews. ROOT Sports Pittsburgh's Greg Brown -- the former Bisons and Bills announcer -- goes utterly ballistic around 27 seconds. Classic.

---What a crazy couple of days in Syracuse. Columbus pitcher Justin Germano tossed just the fifth perfect game in IL history Tuesday over the Syracuse Chiefs but the Chiefs nearly got revenge Wednesday as Brad Peacock took a no-hittter into the eighth before a Beau Mills double broke him off. That was the only Columbus hit in a 2-0 Syracuse win. Crazy year in the Cuse. Ex-Bison Michael Aubrey had a four-homer game in June against Durham and now a perfect game.

---Courtesy of the Clippers, here's the final out of the perfecto and the clubhouse scene as Germano comes off the field.

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

 

Bisons go to Schwinden in hopes of ending skid

It's game two of a four game series between the Bisons and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees at Coca-Cola Field today. The Herd are currently in the middle of an eight-game home stand which they have started off 1-4.

In today's afternoon game All Star pitcher Chris Schwinden (6-5, 3.52) will get the start for Buffalo and he will face Lance Pendleton (3-3, 2.95). 

An update for the Yankees fans, pitcher Ivan Nova was working with the pitching staff before batting practice today. He threw for about 15 minutes with a Scranton coach carefully watching every throw.

Nova was placed on the 7-Day DL last Wednesday because of an ankle injury. He pitched a simulated game yesterday and has been experiencing pain in his ankle since getting hit by a line drive in a previous start.

Lineup:

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

Austin Krum CF

Greg Golson RF

Jesus Montero DH

Mike Lamb 3B

Jorge Vazquez 1B

Jordan Parraz LF

Gustavi Molina C

Luis Nunez 2B

Doug Bernier SS

--

Lance Pendleton P

Buffalo

Luis Figueroa 2B

Mike Baxter RF

Valentino Pascucci 1B

Jason Botts LF

Josh Satin 3B

Michael Fisher DH

Ruben Tejada SS

Fernando Perez CF

Raul Chavez C

--

Chris Schwinden P

 

--Ryan Marfurt

 

Another new bat for Bisons

The Bisons open a four-game series tonight in Coca-Cola Field against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and the game will mark the debut of right fielder Mark Baxter in the Buffalo lineup. Baxter, 26, was claimed on waivers from the San Diego Padres and has been at Class A St. Lucie for about a week. He will bat sixth tonight and become the 52nd player to wear a Buffalo uniform this season.

Baxter, a Queens native, nearly made the Padres this year out of spring training as he was batting .370 for the big club before suffering torn ligaments in his thumb diving for a ball in the outfield during a game against the Los Angeles Angels. He was out until early July and the Padres had him stashed on rehab at Class A Lake Elsinore when they tried to get him through waivers but the Mets snagged him.

It seems like a good addition. Baxter hit .301 with 18 homers and 72 RBIs last year at Triple-A Portland and got his first big-league callup, going 1 for 8 with the Padres. Baxter had 30 doubles was was third in the Pacific Coast League with 10 triples.

7:30 p.m. update: Baxter goes deep to right for a two-run homer in the bottom of the 2nd on the first pitch he sees from Scranton starter D.J. Mitchell. Herd takes 2-1 lead.

The Bisons are 4-5 this year against Scranton and both teams figure to be on edge this week as the trade deadline approaches and both of their parents could be involved in moves. Wonder if Scranton catching prospect Jesus Montero will be sent packing for a pitching prospect. He went through a similar situation while in town during deadline week last year as he was nearly sent to Seattle for Cliff Lee.

Here's tonight's lineup, which includes the Scranton list for all you Bomber fans.

Scranton
Kevin Russo, 3b
Greg Golson, cf
Jesus Montero, c
Mike Lamb, dh
Jorge Vazquez, 1b
Jordan Parraz, rf
Austin Krum, lf
Luis Nunez, 2b
Doug Bernier, ss
---
D.J. Mitchell, p

Buffalo
Luis Figueroa, dh
Ruben Tejada, ss
Valentino Pascucci, 1b
Jason Botts, lf
Josh Satin, 3b
Mike Baxter, rf
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Fernando Perez, cf
Mike Nickeas, c
---
Pat Misch, p

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

Veteran mound matchup as Herd aims to avoid sweep

A 5 p.m. look at Coca-Cola Field. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)

The Buffalo Bisons look to avoid a four-game sweep and the Pawtucket Red Sox have their sights on a return to first place as two major league veterans take the mound tonight at Coca-Cola Field.

Right-hander Miguel Batista (0-0, 8.68 ERA), a 40-year-old veteran of 17 major league seasons, takes on 36-year-old and 14-year major leaguer lefty Kevin Millwood (5-0, 3.79) in a 7:05 p.m. start. The pair has combined for 258 major league wins and 1,028 appearances.

It is the last of a four-game series. Pawtucket has won the first three, including a come-from-behind, 7-6 victory in which they scored three runs in the top of the ninth on Sunday.

Pawtucket sits one game out of first place in the International League North (58-44). A PawSox win, combined with a loss by front-running Lehigh Valley (59-43) at home to Columbus (7:05 start), would forge a tie atop the division and give Pawtucket its first share of first place since April 22.

Here is today's Bisons lineup:

Luis Figueroa 2B
Ruben Tejada ss
Valentino Pascucci 1b
Jason Botts lf
Michael Fisher dh
Josh Satin 3b
Jesus Feliciano rf
Fernando Perez cf
Mike Nickeas c
--
Miguel Batista p

There were some bouts of rain during the day but the grounds crew just removed the tarp (4:53 p.m.), the sun is shining and event workers have been busy wiping off seats.

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

 

Hall of Fame day comes up Rosey

We had a terrific ceremony to induct Jim Rosenhaus and Tony Pena into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon in Coca-Cola Field (full disclosure: I am a member of the selection committe).

Be sure to catch up on today's column on Rosenhaus, one of the class acts I've met in the game and someone I still enjoy chatting with when I make trips to Cleveland's Progressive Field. For 11 seasons here, I am privileged to say I had almost daily chats with him on the field, in the press box and clubhouse. Some great times.

I was there for his first game in 1996 in Nashville and went into the booth to wish him well a half-hour before the game and he was full-fledged panic mode because the equipment wasn't working. He did the game over a telephone for four innings with Duke McGuire before the folks at the station rescued him

One of my favorite memories was the Bisons' first title clincher in 1997 in Des Moines. I went into the booth to chronicle Rosenhaus' ninth-inning call of the final out for the next day's paper (no Internet broadcast to listen to back then). One problem: David Weathers gave up two runs in the ninth to blow a lead before Sean Casey's homer won it in the 10th. I did the same thing the next year in Game Four in Durham. Another two runs in the bottom of the ninth, this time producing an horrific defeat.

Rosenhaus and I then made a pact: No more trips to the booth by me! With the jinx out of the way, the Bisons won Game Five the next night to head to the World Series in Las Vegas. Rosenhaus hosted celebrations of those titles back at the ballpark in Buffalo and drew one of the biggest cheers in '97 when he pointed out the Herd could retire the trophy of the going-out-of-business American Association.

Rosenhaus roared the quote of the night: "It stays here. We don't have to give it back!" 

I loved seeing the video today of the Bisons' three title-clinching outs in '97, '98 and here in '04 against Richmond. Classic Rosenhaus calls. A good broadcaster has to be able to paint a picture with his words and Rosenhaus certainly did that.

Kudos to a job well done, Rosey.

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

 

Bisons look to snap streak

Today is Hall of Fame Day at the ballpark. The Bisons will induct Jim Rosenhaus and Tony Pena into the Hall of Fame. Rosenhaus was the longtime voice of the Bisons while Pena was a former catcher for the Herd. Pena's son, Tony Pena Jr. will accept the award for his father. He pitches for the Pawtucket Red Sox.

The Buffalo Bisons host the Red Sox today for the third game of a four-game series. Buffalo looks to rebound after dropping the first two games of the series. Dylan Owen will make his 13th start of the season for the Bisons and the Red Sox will counter with Jeremy Kehrt. Owen will try and help the Bisons end their six-game losing streak against the Red Sox.

Here is today's Bisons lineup:

Luis Figueroa dh
Jesus Feliciano rf
Valentino Pascucci 1b
Jason Botts lf
Josh Satin 3b
Luis Hernandez 2b
Ruben Tejada ss
Fernando Perez cf
Raul Chavez c

---Jason Davis

Red-hot Lavarnway gets night off against Herd

Boston prospect Ryan Lavarnway is putting up absurd numbers and continued them Friday night with his home run and double here. At least the Bisons get a break and won't have to deal with him tonight as he's getting a day off, his first since June 22.

Lavarnway has homered in four of his last five games and seven of the last 10. He's batting .381 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs for the Pawsox and a combined .322-27-74 in 90 games between Pawtucket and Double-A Portland. Luis Esposito will be catching for Pawtucket tonight.

Mark Cohoon (3-5) will pitch for Buffalo tonight against Pawtucket veteran Brandon Duckworth. The Bisons are just 2-7 against Pawtucket this year, including five straight defeats. Here's tonight's Buffalo lineup:

Luis Figueroa, 3b
Ruben Tejada, ss
Jesus Feliciano, rf
Valentino Pascucci, dh
Jason Botts, lf
Josh Satin, 1b
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Fernando Perez, cf
Mike Nickeas, c
---
Mark Cohoon, p

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

 

It's Aud Replica Night at Bisons game

Get in line early if you're looking for the promotional item at tonight's Bisons-Pawtucket game. The first 4,000 fans through the Swan Street gate will receive a replica of the late, great Memorial Auditorium as part of the team's annual Replica Night giveaway.

Offermann and War Memorial Stadium and Coca-Cola Field have all been previous replica giveaways and now the team has moved to local landmarks like last year's Crystal Beach piece and the Aud.

The Aud replicas will only be given away at the Swan Street gate, one per person. The line in the past has stretched from the third-base gate all the way to the parking lot in right field, but history has shown patience works because it moves fast once the gates open.

The Bisons lost the opener of the four-game series Friday night, 4-2. Red-hot Pawtucket catcher Ryan Lavarnway homered, doubled and drove in three runs as he continues to make a splash among Boston prospect watches. In 35 games at Triple-A after being promoted from Double-A Portland, Lavarnway is batting .381 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs. Pretty sick numbers.

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

Bisons send Schwinden to the mound

---The Bisons begin an eight-game homestand tonight against Pawtucket. The Herd, 4-4 since the All-Star break, will throw Chris Schwinden against Matt Fox. Here is the starting lineup for tonight's game:

Fernando Perez, cf
Ruben Tejada, ss
Luis Figueroa, dh
Val Pascucci, 1b
Jason Botts, lf
Josh Satin, 3b
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Jesus Feliciano, rf
Raul Chavez, c
Chris Schwinden, p

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Pena on life with the Yankees

It was great to catch up with Tony Pena over the weekend in Toronto. The Yankees bench coach had plenty of memories of his 1979 season in Buffalo that you can read about in Tuesday's editions as we head toward his induction Sunday in the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pena is Joe Girardi's bench coach with the Yankees and got the first World Series ring of his long career with the Bronx Bombers in 2009. He had lost in the Series as a player with St. Louis (in 1987 to Minnesota) and Cleveland (in 1995 to Atlanta).

"That was like a dream come true to win," he said. "You try to achieve your ultimate goal and sometimes you never get it. In '87 and '95 we had chances and didn't win. As a coach I came here and this was my opportunity to have a ring on my hand. Everything happens for a reason. You just have to be at the right place at the right time."

The Yankees, of course, are in the hunt again this year. What does Pena think about their chances?

"We've been a little up and down but we just have to get our own guys back," he said. "[Rafael] Soriano, [Eric] Chavez and, of course, Alex [Rodriguez]. That's the first thing. When you have your guys, you'll be fine. We just need to try to play to the top of our abilities."

Whatever happens in 2011, it will always be remembered for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit and Pena said he was thrilled to be in the dugout for the dramatic home run against Tampa Bay.

"That was an amazing moment," Pena said. "I've been here for six years now throwing batting practice to him all the time and seeing how much he puts into his body, how much effort he puts into the game, how much beating your body takes to play the same way every day. 

"The most amazing thing about him is how he comes out here and has the same expression every single day. I've never seen Derek jeter go from here to here [putting his hand over his head and then down by his knees]. He's on the same line and that's very tough for a player.

"When he got the 3,000th hit, I was like a little kid. I was so happy for him. It couldn't have happened to a better guy."

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

No Jeter today and other Yankee doodles

TORONTO -- Quick update today from the sweltering Rogers Centre: Derek Jeter has the day off for the Yankees, his first since his 3,000th hit. A simple case of Joe Girardi giving him the day away from the unforgiving turf here before tonight's flight to St. Petersburg to start Monday's series at Tampa Bay.

No injury, no recurrence of any calf trouble. So unless he enters the game later, Jeter says stuck at 3,007, tied with Al Kaline. Eduardo Nunez is at short and Ramiro Pena at third for the still-rehabbing Alex Rodriguez.

Couple other crazy notes in the wake of yesterday's 4-1 Yankees win:

---The Bombers are an MLB-best 27-5 in day games. Of course, that means they're just 27-32 at night. Bizarre. 

---CC Sabathia's start Saturday was his final one as a 30-year-old and was his 171st career wins. According to Elias, the last eight pitchers with 170 before 31 are all in the Hall of Fame. The list includes: Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, Robin Roberts, Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Palmer and Catfish Hunter.

---Phil Hughes is on the mound today. He won 18 games last year. He has no wins this year. Joe Girardi said the Yankees will consider it like a trade acquisition if Hughes gets it going in the second half. I remain skeptical.

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

Yankees growing more suspicious of Jays' sign-stealing

TORONTO -- Yankees catcher Russell Martin said the Blue Jays were stealing signs from second base during Toronto's 16-7 win here Thursday night. The Yankees changed their signs so much Friday night they think it caused a big distraction for pitcher Freddy Garcia in their 7-1 loss. (I say Garcia had nothing but that's just me).

Now comes a ramping up of this chatter prior to today's 1 p.m. game on YES: Manager Joe Girardi actually said the Blue Jays might be doing it from somewhere off the field in Rogers Centre. Seriously.

"We're going to protect our signs and I told the guys there's things you have to do at certain ballparks," Girardi said.

Now, this isn't a new accusation. In the glory days here, Cito Gaston was one of the best sign stealers there was and plenty of teams have worried about the hotel rooms that overlook the field housing a potentially clandestine operative.

But come on. The Jays are 21-22 at home. Last night was the fourth game I've covered here this year -- and the first one the Jays have won! A team stealing signs would not be below .500 at home.

Yankee beat writers left Girardi's pregame meeting in the first-base dugout and bolted over to John Farrell's scrum in the third base dugout with Girardi's words and I'm told Farrell was baffled because of his team's home record. (Disclosure: I was not there as I was working on my Sunday Inside Baseball column).

Part of me tells me Farrell is involved because he got very familiar with the Yankees during his time in Boston. But a bigger part of me says the Jays probably will have a lot tougher time stealing signs today with CC Sabathia on the mound than they did with Garcia or Bartolo Colon.

Always some sort of sideshow when the Yankees are in town. Great stuff for reporters to chew on.

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

A Jays-Yankees update, post-traffic jam

TORONTO -- Live long enough in Buffalo and you'll deal with a whopper of a traffic jam sometime in your life coming up here. Be it the bridges or the QEW, you'll get yours eventually. I got it tonight. Because of a family obligation, I left my house at 3:30. Figured some extra bridge time and traffic would have me safely in the Rogers Centre press box in the 6-6:15 range. Heh. Next case.

I sat down in the press box here at around 8 p.m. after an epically nightmarish drive. Only 40 minutes at the Rainbow Bridge. Just traffic, accidents, traffic and more traffic. Followed by filled parking lots.

Haven't even filled out a scorecard yet. Trying to keep tabs and do a couple things. The Blue Jays lead the Yankees, 3-1, in the bottom of the fifth. Good friend of the blog Chad Jennings of the Westchester Journal-News, my former IL cohort from his days covering the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons and Yankees, was kind enough to give me a catchup on some of today's pregame chatter:

---Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista is not playing after twisting his ankle last night. It looked mighty serious but was much better today and he didn't even need an MRI. Jays manager John Farrell said Bautista might play Sunday but almost certainly would be ready Tuesday against Seattle here. So bummer for all you folks coming up this weekend that you probably won't see the big-league home run leader.

---Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Bartolo Colon, the ex-Bison of about 100 pounds ago, is physically fine in the wake of his eight-run blowup in the first inning last night. The Yankees were concerned about a leg issue as Colon continues to struggle covering first.

"I talked to him today and I said, ‘Do you feel anything?’ And he assured me that he didn’t," Girardi said. "So I went and watched the tape and looked for things that would tell me if he felt it or not. Did not see anything. Watching the tape, he threw much better than what we saw. We didn’t play defense behind him, which really hurt him."

---Yankees catcher Russell Martin said after Thursday's game and again today that he felt the Blue Jays were stealing signs last night, tipping off batters when there was a runner at second base. Martin changed the signs in the fourth inning but his team was already in a 9-1 hole.

"Teams have been giving locations and stealing signs forever, and it’s something that we guard against and we’ll continue to guard against it," Girardi said. "...They’re more famliar with you, you’re more familiar with them. It’s all part of the game.”

Girardi went on to say sign-stealing is part of the game, so long as it's not done in an extreme way, such as with binoculars from the bullpen (see Phillies) or the stands. Did he notice it last night?

"I’m not going to comment on that," he said. "But believe me, we pay attention to it.”

---What was Farrell's take on the sign-stealing? He tended to plead ignorance but everyone here knows better. Farrell just spent four years as the pitching coach of the Red Sox so you know he has some pretty intimate knowledge of the Yankees.

"If it’s taking place, in the times when we’ve felt like it has, that’s where you shift to a secondary set of signs, always trying to stay one step ahead," he said. I don’t know if that was actually taking place last night. [Martin] has a right to his own opinion. I don’t know if that’s what was going on last night, but we’ve been in games where you kind of sense it. You’ve got to be equipped to adjust.”

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

Bisons return from All-Star break

The Bisons begin their second half of the season in Coca-Cola FIeld tonight with a two-game homestand against the Rochester RedWings. The Herd ended the first half at 38-53 and is 15 games under .500 for the second time this season. They are 15.5 games back of International League North Division leader Lehigh Valley.

Making his first start for the Bisons at home is Miguel Batista. He joined the Herd on July 5. The Mets signed him after St. Louis released him. The 40-year old has allowed four runs in two relief outings with the Bisons. Batista has pitched in 614 major league games with 10 different clubs, including getting 11 wins for the 2001 World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks.

Tonight's starting lineup for Buffalo:

Luis Figueroa -- SS
Michael Fisher -- 3B
Zach Lutz -- 1B
Fernando Martinez -- RF
Valentino Pascucci  -- DH
Jason Botts -- LF
Luis Hernandez -- 2B
Jesus Feliciano -- CF
Mike Nickeas --C

--- Amy Moritz 

A look ahead to the second half

If you missed my look forward to the second half of the MLB season in today's editions, here's the link to the story. It's pretty fascinating to see there is tremendous parity in baseball even when the public perception is otherwise. In the last six years, 11 different teams have made the World Series! Pretty amazing.

My choice for a newcomer this year to that group would be the Brewers, especially now that they've acquired Francisco Rodriguez. That said, my prediction would still remain what I called in March -- the Phillies and the Red Sox. It's going to be really hard to knock either of them off come October.

So based on what you've seen so far and what you think might happen the rest of the way, take our little poll to choose who will be in the Fall Classic.

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

Around the horn, leading off with Triple-A stars

Bisons---The Triple-A All-Star Game played Wednesday night in Salt Lake City was a lot like its MLB counterpart: Good pitching silences good hitting. The International League beat the Pacific Coast League, 3-0, getting all the runs in the second inning on a three-run homer by Durham's Russ Canzler. Bisons pitcher Chris Schwinden needed just seven pitches to toss a 1-2-3 fifth and aid the IL cause.

So now the countdown to Buffalo is really on. The next one is at Coca-Cola Field on July 11, 2012, as indicated by the banners in Salt Lake (left) the Bisons posted in this picture from their Twitter feed.

Here's hoping MLB Network does a dramatically better job with its telecast. Last night's was a joke. No player introductions or national anthems and incessant chatter from Chris Rose and Kevin Millar, neither of whom seemed to know much about any of the players other than MLB retreads Jeremy Hermida and Cody Ransom. 

And enough about the stupid sound effects. MLB Net talked more about the mics on the umpires than the players. It was a terrible showing.

As for the Bisons, they open a two-game set against Rochester tonight at the ballpark at 7. The teams play again Friday at 7:30.

---The Yankees open a four-game set tonight in Toronto (cheap plug: I'll be covering the final three) and the talk in New York this morning was about the potential lame-duck status of GM Brian Cashman, who would be in big demand if he ever tires of the Baby George Steinbrenners, Hank and Hal.

---The Mets don't open the second half until Friday against the Phillies and the team will work out today in Citi Field, which will be Terry Collins' first chance to tell his troops the K-Rod trade to Milwaukee was not a white-flag special. Tough call. The Mets had to do it to avoid paying his $17 million option for next year but now they're relying on Bobby Parnell to close? Might work. Might not. In a conference call Wednesday, GM Sandy Alderson said the Amazins are not giving up.

---The Mets say David Wright might be ready July 22. With no home games after tomorrow, that means no rehab in Buffalo. Bummer.

---Speaking of the Brewers, how are they going to mix and match K-Rod and former Canisius pitcher John Axford at the back end of their bullpen?  It's a dilemma to figure out.

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

Triple-A All-Star Game: Tonight in Salt Lake City, next year in Buffalo

Not much to say about last night's MLB All-Star Game, a 5-1 win for the National League in Phoenix. Bud Selig insists it counts, so I'm sure the Phillies, Giants, Braves, Cardinals, etc are happy for the chance to have homefield advantage in the World Series.

The stage shifts tonight to Salt Lake City for the 24th Triple-A All-Star Game. It will air at 9 p.m. on MLB Network and Radio 1520 AM with Brad Mills (Las Vegas-Toronto) starting for the Pacific Coast League and Zach McAllister (Columbus-Cleveland) going for the International League. The Bisons' lone representative is pitcher Chris Schwinden.

Once tonight's game is over, the focus shifts to Coca-Cola Field, which will host the 25th anniversary game on Wednesday, July 11, 2012. The all-star game began at then-Pilot Field on July 14, 1988 but was a much simpler affair back then with few ancilliary activities. Next year's activities will include the Triple-A Home Run Derby on July 9 and a gala luncheon at the Adam's Mark on gameday.

The Bisons have opened ticket sales for the events, at $35 for the Home Run Derby and game, and $25 for the luncheon.

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

Around the horn on Jeter and more

NYDNDerek Jeter had perhaps the biggest day of his career Saturday, joining the 3,000-hit club while simultaneously going 5 for 5 and driving in the winning run in the Yankees' 5-4 win over the Rays. Jeter joined Wade Boggs as the only players to homer for No. 3,000, and Craig Biggio as the only ones to get five hits on 3,000 day.

A great performance like that deserves some great stories. Say what you want about the craziness of the New York City media, but it's filled with true pros who can turn a phrase for a moment that might have supplanted all the great Jeter moments like The Jeffrey Maier, The Flip, Mr. November and The Dive into the Stands. And the covers, like the one from today's Daily News (left), are always talking points too.

Wrote longtime friend of the blog Mike Vaccaro in today's New York Post:  "It shouldn't be this easy, this routine, to take ridiculously huge moments and slip into them like a Technicolor dreamcoat."

Added fellow Post veteran Joel Sherman: "This was chilling and memorable, nostalgic and surreal, impressive and historic. But because this was Derek Jeter, the most important element of a special day was this: It was meaningful."

Said Mike Lupica in the Daily News:  "The moment of Jeter's 3,000th was always going to be a great moment, especially if it came at the Stadium. And then Derek Jeter decided to knock the moment right out of the park."

From longtime Yankees beat writer Bob Klapisch, now writing columns for the Bergen Record: "Jeter didn’t cry as he became the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits, but he nevertheless experienced every possible emotion – from joy to relief and maybe a hint of a take-that to those who’ve ridden shotgun on the shortstop’s descent into 2011 mediocrity."

On the homefront, in this week's edition of Inside Baseball, I talk about the burgeoning problem with umpires, who are getting more arrogant by the day. Jack McKeon and Jim Leyland, among others, both ripped into them this week and I was in the Rogers Centre for last week's meltdown by Blue Jays pitcher Jon Rauch. You can see that one by clicking below.

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

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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