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Pitching-rich Bisons roster taking shape

While getting ready for tonight's Sabres-Penguins game, I can give you some news on the Bisons as it looks like their roster is just about set. Here's a quick rundown:

---We're less than six days from the season opener, next Thursday in Pawtucket. The home opener is April 11 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The team will convene in Buffalo for a workout and media session Tuesday in Coca-Cola Field (closed to the public).

---It looks like there's a good chance mega Mets pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia will both open the season in Buffalo, which would be a huge boon for the Bisons' hopes and exactly what manager Wally Backman has stated he wanted the organization to do when he was introduced here in November.

Harvey was the Mets' No. 1 pick in 2010 out of North Carolina but was rocked for three home runs Sunday by the Nationals in his first big-league chance. Work in progress.

---Adam Rubin at reports the rotation will include Harvey and Familia as well as holdover Chris Schwinden (8-8, 3.95 in 26 starts for Buffalo last season) and free-agent signees Garrett Olson and Jeremy Hefner.

---The Mets' cuts this week also give you some insight on the Bisons' lineup: Free agents Rob Johnson and Lucas May will share the catching duties. The infield will include the likes of Reese Havens at second, Jordany Valdespin at short, Zach Lutz at third and perhaps Josh Satin in a utility role along with veteran Vinny Rottino. There's also free-agent signee Matt Tuiasosopo and Josh Rodriguez,  just signed by the Mets on Thursday. 

The outfield should include Raul Reyes, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt Van Dekker and free agent signee Adam Loewen, the converted pitcher who had a big bat last year at Las Vegas (306-17-85). Fan favorite Val Pascucci, with 38 homers the last two years here, will split time at first and DH.

---Sorting out bullpen roles seems like it will be the big issue in the early going for Backman. Not many young prospects there. More of the veteran free-agent type, with the only familiar name being former Cleveland prospect Fernando Cabrera, who pitched here from 2004-2006.

---The Bisons are 1-4-3 this spring and continue their schedule Friday with a game against Memphis in Jupiter, Fla. On Saturday, they'll take a detour to Vero Beach to the old Dodgertown complex to meet New Orleans and wrap things up Sunday in at the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie against Memphis.

---Mike Harrington

Individual sales for Triple-A All-Star Game open next Tuesday

The Bisons announced today that individual tickets for the Triple-A All-Star Game (July 11) and Triple-A Home Run Derby (July 9) will go on sale next Tuesday at 9 a.m. They have been available for a few weeks in package deals but will now be available individually.

Tickets for the all-star game are $25 and tickets for the home run derby are $15. The prices are the same throughout the ballpark. A large fireworks show will follow the game. The derby will include appearances from The Famous Chicken.

Fans can continue to purchase packages to both events for $35, a savings of $5.

Tickets are available at, by calling THE-HERD (843-4373) or in person at the Coca-Cola Field Box Office on the Swan Street. side of the ballpark, Monday-Friday (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) or on Saturdays (10a.m. – 2p.m.).

---Mike Harrington

Video look at What's New at the Ballpark session

Through the lens of News Staff Photographer John Hickey, here's a recap of Thursday's "What's New at the Ballpark" press conference the Bisons staged at Pettibones Grille inside Coca-Cola Field.

Local food, new gift shop coming to the ballpark

CraftThe Bisons held their annual "What's New at the Ballpark" media session Thursday afternoon at Pettibones' Grille and they've increased their local food initiative they started last season.  The hot dogs are going to now be Sahlen's, a Buffalo staple. Charlie The Butcher will serve roast beef on weck, Wardynski will offer Italian and chicken sausage, and Consumers Beverage (right) will increase Coca-Cola Field's craft brew offerings.

Based on what I saw today, bring your appetite for the 25th anniversary season downtown.

"Food has always been a huge part of what we've tried to do with the ballpark experience the last 24 years," said general manager Mike Buczkowski. "And I think it's natural if we're all about Buffalo that we try to incorporate the great array of foods that we have."

The team has also unveiled some new entrees for Pettibones. They include "Buffalo Jumbalaya" with chorizo and chicken, pork loin strip steak and stuffed chicken breast with spinach and provolone.

MerchAfter all that, if you still fit in your clothes, the team announced today an expansion of its merchandising department that will allow more fans to purchase products with the 25th anniversary logo and the logo for the Triple-A All-Star Game (left).

The Bisons will return their Batter's Box gift shop on the third-base side but will open a second gift shop -- 50 percent larger than the original -- on the first-base side.

"When this ballpark was built, there wasn't yet the big boon of minor-league baseball merchandise,' Buczkowski said. "Having another full-service gift shop  is a big change here."

The home schedule opens April 11 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with the season opening April 5 in Pawtucket.  The team's promotional schedule, as always, is chock full of giveaways and the complete list is available at this link.

---Mike Harrington

Photos by John Hickey/Buffalo News: Consumers Beverage VP Jim Kavanaugh with his offerings (top right) and some of the Bisons' new merchandise choices (bottom left)

Bisons set to play Pawsox at Fenway Park

The Boston Red Sox have officially announced what I reported in late January -- the Bisons will be meeting the Pawtucket Red Sox in Fenway Park on Saturday, Aug. 18 as part of the parent club's seventh annual "Futures at Fenway" double-header.

The afternoon begins at 1 p.m. with Boston's Class A Lowell affiliate meeting Hudson Valley (Tampa Bay) in a New York-Penn League affair. The Bisons and Pawsox follow, starting roughly in the 4 p.m. range. Buffalo and Pawtucket will then continue their series the next day as usual in Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium.

Tickets start at just $5 and only go up to $30 for the twinbill. They go on sale March 17 at 10 a.m. It's a big year at Fenway, as the park is celebrating its 100th anniversary. New Bisons manager Wally Backman, who played there for the Mets in the 1986 World Series, managed Double-A Binghamton in the Futures twinbill last year against Portland in an Eastern League game.

The Bisons last played a game in a major-league stadium in 1995, when they lost to Louisville in a game played at old Busch Stadium in St. Louis, then the Redbirds' parent club.

---Mike Harrington


For 2012 Triple-A season, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will be known as the 'Empire State Yankees'

Emp statePretty interesting announcement today out of Rochester: The vagabound Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who will be playing a traveling home schedule while PNC Field in Moosic, Pa., is completely renovated, will be completely rebranded for the season and called the "Empire State Yankees."

The Yankees, you'll recall are playing 37 "home" games at Frontier Field in Rochester, as well as 10 at Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse, seven at Dwyer Stadium in Batavia and six at Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo (the games on May 24-27 and Aug. 20-21 are all Bisons' "road" games where the Yankees will bat last here).

The team is playing 60 of its 72 home games in upstate New York (the other 12 are in Pawtucket and Lehigh Valley), and 84 of their 144 games overall in the region. Players will be headquartered for the season in the Rochester area.

The team's cap design (left above) and logo (right) have been changed for the season to incorporate the Empire State moniker, and all official league standings and records will refer to the club as "Empire State".

In a statement, Rochester GM Dan Mason said it was the idea of the parent Yankees to come up with Empire State. And he correctly points out that merchandise might become hot items.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise and the other IL clubs that will be hosting them this year and we wanted to make this as much fun for our fans and the players as possible," Mason said. "The Empire State Yankees merchandise and logos will only be available this season so they are sure to be collectors’ items. We appreciate the NY Yankees and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees cooperation with this venture."

By the way, tickets for the seven games in Batavia went on sale Monday and the Class A Muckdogs report box seats are already pretty limited. 

---Mike Harrington


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 |

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 |