Did we ever have winter? Guess not, because the crack of bat to ball and the thud of ball into glove is all over Coca-Cola Field today. Under wildly good conditions for April 3, the Buffalo Bisons held Media Day and a workout as they prepare for Thursday's opener in Pawtucket and their unveiling under new manager Wally Backman.
Right-hander Matt Harvey, the New York Mets' No. 1 draft pick and the No. 7 choice overall in 2010 out of the University of North Carolina, will make his Triple-A debut as the Bisons' Opening Day starter. The 6-foot-4 Harvey went 13-5 last year with a 3.32 ERA in 26 starts between Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. He struck out 156 and walked just 47 in 135 2/3 innings.
"It's a huge honor," said Harvey, 23. "I wasn't sure going into spring training exactly where I was going to start [whether it was Buffalo or Binghamton]. Wally told me the whole time I had a good chance of going with him. As soon as tbey told me, I was extremely honored and happy. I'm just glad to get the season started."
Since the day he was promoted from Binghamton in November, Backman had openly campaigned for the Mets to start Harvey and fellow mega-prospect Jeurys Familia in the Buffalo rotation. Backman got his wish.
"I think it's really good for the players," Backman said. "It shows when you perform at the level they performed at last year you get the reward they're getting now, being that much closer to the big leagues."
Harvey pitched back-to-back two-inning outings for the Mets in spring training without giving up a run, then gave up five runs in one inning March 25 against the Nationals that Backman called a great learning experience.
"I just have to stay with my approach, doing what I can do and not trying to do more," Harvey said. "Every time I take the ball, I'm going to have the same approach whoever it is I face. Do my best to not get out of that. Especially here being in Triple-A a level higher."
"He's like a sponge," Backman said. "He comes into your office and the other coaches' offices and when we're talking to him, he's listening to everything you have to say. We say those things to other players but he's even more of a sponge than everybody else."
Backman still has some work to do in terms of ferreting out bullpen roles but said he's settled on veteran Omar Quintanilla at shortstop and returnee Jordany Valdespin at second base (he played short most of last season). Josh Satin and Zach Lutz will man infield spots and Val Pascucci, Buffalo's MVP last season, will play first base/DH and may get some turns in the outfield as well.
The Bisons open the season with a six-game road trip, two in Pawtucket and four in Rochester. The home opener is April 11 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Click below to hear today's media sessions with Backman and Harvey and be sure to check our full Bisons preview in Thursday's editions.