The Bisons' series finale with Rochester was rained out Monday night in Coca-Cola Field as the teams waited 75 minutes but heavy rain that started about 20 minutes before the scheduled 6:05 first pitch simply did not let up.
The postponement will be made up during the Red Wings' other trip to Buffalo this season, meaning the Aug. 25-28 series will now be a five-gamer. So the Bisons finish April 14-10 and lose out on the chance to equal the franchise record for wins in the opening month, as we talked about earlier this evening.
The Bisons will push their pitching rotation back a day. That means Garrett Olson will start Tuesday night's series opener against Syracuse while top Mets prospects Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia will go Wednesday and Thursday instead of Tuesday and Wednesday.
Harvey has been lights-out in his last two starts, posting a 2.08 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 13 innings while winning both games.
The Buffalo Bisons go for the four-game sweep of the Rochester Red Wings tonight in Coca-Cola Field and there's several things at stake:
---The Herd is 14-10, one shy of its modern-era record for wins in April set five times previously (last in 2003).
---The Bisons will be gunnning for their first five-game winning streak since taking eight straight since August, 2010.
---The Bisons are a game out of first place in the IL North, a spot they have not had a piece of since May 28, 2010. They could get there tonight with a win and a Pawtucket loss at Columbus, where the PawSox have dropped the first three games of their series.
---Buffalo has not swept a four-game set against its Thruway rivals since April 26-29, 2004 at Frontier Field.
Garrett Olson (0-1, 2.82) starts for Buffalo tonight with a dramatically different lineup. Zach Lutz is back from New York (Raul Reyes was sent to Binghamton and there are a few other changes. Vinny Rottino, riding an 11-game hitting streak, is keeping his No. 2 slot in the lineup by serving as catcher tonight for the first time this season. Fred Lewis making his Buffalo debut in left field and Dustin Martin is making his second appearance, his first in center field. Here's the lineup:
Bobby Scales, 2b Vinny Rottino, c Valentino Pascucci, dh Fred Lewis, lf Zach Lutz, 1b Dustin Martin, cf Matt Tuiasosopo, rf Brad Eamus, 3b Omar Quintanilla, ss --- Garrett Olson, p
Durham has won 10 IL South titles since 1998, including five in a row, and three Governors' Cups (2002 over the Bisons, 2003 and 2009). The Bulls were certainly hoping to win another this year and get to the Triple-A National Championship Game, which they will be hosting in September for the first time.
Looks like that's not going to happen. It appears all those great Tampa Bay pitching prospects are finally in the big leagues and the well has run dry. The Bulls have the worst pitching in the IL with a 5.91 ERA and are already 11 games out of first place with the calendar still in April.
They opened the season with seven games at home and went 5-2. Everything seemed normal. Then they embarked on a 14-game road trip and the horns fell off the Bull with a 1-13 record that saw losses in the final 10 games. The team ERA on the trip was a ghastly 7.60.
The collapse continued when they got home. They're dropped three straight to Indianapolis. They were demolished, 13-2, on Friday and blanked, 2-0, on Saturday. Then came the low moment Sunday, the first no-hitter against the Bulls ever at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Feel bad for three-year Buffalo outfielder Jesus Feliciano, who signed with Tampa over the winter and is now stuck with a team as bad as the '09 outfit in Buffalo. Feliciano is batting .273.
(The Bisons, by the way, play all eight of their games against Durham in a 12-game stretch that doesn't begin until June 22. Too bad the Herd can't get the Bulls now when they're cold. Instead, they'll play eight in May against red-hot Gwinnett).
Durham's Reid Brignac, who has had stints in Tampa, made the last out of the no-no on a slow roller to second base. Watch the video below.
The Bisons look for their first four-game winning streak when they host the Rochester Red Wings today in sunny (but chilly) Coca-Cola Field. Dylan Owen (1-1), who homered in his last start Monday in Lehigh Valley, is on the mound for Herd against Rochester's Scott Diamond, who leads the International League with four wins and is second with a 1.07 ERA.
Andres Torres has returned to the Mets off his rehab assignment and should play Monday in Houston. Bobby Scales, still the IL's batting leader at .400, is back in the leadoff spot today replacing Torres. Scales is one of five Bisons riding season-high hit streaks; Valentino Pascucci leads the way at 12 games, Vinny Rottino is at 10, Scales is at six, while Josh Satin and Omar Quintanilla are at five.
Here's today's Buffalo lineup:
Bobby Scales, 2b Vinny Rottino, lf Valentino Pascucci, dh Josh Satin, 1b Matt Tuiasosopo, rf Brad Eamus, 3b (making his season debut) Raul Reyes, cf Lucas May, c Omar Quintanilla, ss --- Dylan Owen, p
Righty Jeremy Hefner returns to the Buffalo Bisons after making his Major League debut with the New York Mets last Monday. Hefner three three shutout innings of relief for the Mets agianst San Francisco. He is 2-1 in three starts with the Herd and his 1.96 earned run average is the sixth best in the International League.
Buffalo won the opener of the four-game series with Rochester at Coca-Cola Field Friday night, 7-3. Today's 1:05 p.m. game puts Hefner on the mound against Red Wings righty P.J. Walters (2-1, 3.38 ERA).
The Herd's lineup:
Andres Torres -- CF Bobby Scales -- 2B Valentino Pascucci -- DH Josh Satin -- 1B Vinny Rottino -- LF Matt Tuiasosopo -- 3B Dustin Martin -- RF Lucas May -- C Omar Quintanilla -- SS
I've gotten several emails already this season and I know fans who had marked their calendars for Tuesday night, when phenom Bryce Harper was scheduled to be with the Syracuse Chiefs for the opener of a four-game series with the Bisons in Coca-Cola Field.
The media's calendars were marked too; the Bisons were working with the Chiefs to arrange a pregame press conference with Harper, the power-hitting No. 1 pick from the 2010 draft. And it turns out the Buffalo starter Tuesday is going to be Matt Harvey, the red-hot top Mets pick from 2010.
Alas, it won't happen. The 19-year-old outfielder who is baseball's best prospect has hardly been lighting it up at Triple-A but Harper is making his big-league debut tonight for the Washington Nationals in Los Angeles after Ryan Zimmerman landed on the DL. Former TBN Sports intern Amanada Comak, now a Nationals beat writer, has the full story in the Washington Times.
Fellow phenom Stephen Strasburg will be on the mound for the 9:10 ET game, which will be shown on MLB Network.
Harper was batting .250 with one homer and four RBIs. Harper's only home run was against the Bisons, in the opener of a doubleheader Sunday in Syracuse. It was his 67th Triple-A at-bat and came off fellow mega prospect Jeurys Familia. Check it out below.
There had been some talk in spring training about keeping Harper in the big leagues and skipping Triple-A but that seemed foolish with Washington in development mode. But the Nats have quickly pushed into winning mode with their fast start and my antenna went up when I noted that GM Mike Rizzo was in Rochester watching Harper this week, as good friend of the blog Jim Mandelaro wrote in the Rochester D&C. Why would the big-league GM do that in April? Clearly, this was on the docket.
The Buffalo Bisons return to Coca-Cola Field and open a four-game series with Rochester tonight. After a 4-2 road trip, the Herd returned to town with some new faces. Among them, centerfielder Andres Torres who will leadoff for the Herd tonight.
Torres joined the Bisons on a Major League rehabilitation assignment. He suffered a left calf strain in his first game with the New York Mets on April 5 and went on the disabled list April 6. Torres was acquired by the Mets in the offseason from the San Francisco Giants.
In three games with Single-A St. Lucie this week, he hit .333. He is expected to be in Buffalo today and Saturday.
Also activated by the Bisons were outfielder Fred Lewis and infielder Brad Emaus, both signed by the Mets to minor league deals on Wednesday.
Starting on the mound for the Herd is righty Jeurys Familia. On Sunday, he struck out out eight in five innings for a 6-1 win over Syracuse.
Today's Buffalo lineup:
Andres Torres -- CF Bobby Scales -- 2B Valentino Pascucci -- DH Josh Satin -- 1B Vinny Rottino -- LF Matt Tuiasosopo -- 3B Raul Reyes -- RF Lucas May -- C Omar Quintanilla -- SS
The Buffalo Bisons have received quality starts in seven of their last nine games and they've also gotten surprising contributions at the plate. Matt Harvey and Dylan Owen each belted home runs during the three-game series at Lehigh Valley -- after Buffalo did not get a home run from a pitcher since John Hope connected in 1994.
Now, obviously, pitchers didn't hit for the Herd during its run with Cleveland from 1995-2008 but there had been no shots in the first three years the Mets until Owen connected Monday night and Harvey put his two-run shot together with his seven shutout innings in Wednesday's 12-1 romp past the IronPigs.
As part of their seasonlong barnstorming tour, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Empire State) Yankees will play seven home games in tiny, 2,600-seat Dwyer Stadium in Batavia, home of the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League. The Yankees will be in Batavia all weekend for a four-game series against the Norfolk Tides, Baltimore's top affiliate.
The teams play tonight at 7, Saturday and Sunday at 1 and Monday at noon. Tickets are $9, $8 and $7. The ballpark is easy to get to via the Thruway, about a 45-minute drive from Buffalo. Take Exit 48 for Batavia, go left on Oak Street, left on Richmond Avenue and left on Bank Street to the ballpark.
Fenway Park turns 100 today, the first American stadium to do so. It opened on April 20, 1912, so on April 20, 2012, the Red Sox and Yankees will reprise that opener wearing vintage uniforms (the Yankees rarely wear anything different but they'll have Highlander duds on today).
The game is at 3 on YES. At 2 p.m., the Red Sox have an elaborate ceremony planned where every living Sox has been invited back. YES says it will show "highlights" of that, but how much will a Yankee station really show? I would check MLB Network or watch MLB.com if you really want to see the whole thing. Deposed manager Terry Francona, who was miffed by his ouster after last season, has changed his mind and will attend.
The team had a full open house Friday, with fans able to go in areas like the dugouts, field, press box and club levels that are normally closed to the public. More than 53,000 people strolled through the park!
Check out some cool links:
---The Boston Globe has a full Fenway at 100 section but it's for subscribers only. Too bad. The Globe did a terrific what-it-means-to-the-fans piece on April 1 that's well worth the read.
While you were probably sleeping -- and while I was spending most of my time watching Kings-Canucks Game Four -- there were some pretty amazing pitching performances going on late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning on the West Coast.
---It was the fifth 10-inning outing by a starter of the century, the first since Roy Halladay and Aaron Harang went 10 in 2007. ---It was the first 10-inning scoreless outing since Mark Mulder for the A's in 2005. ---It was the first 10-inning outing by a Phillie since Terry Mulholland in 2003 and the first in the big leagues to not result in a win since Bret Saberhagen in 1994.
Meanwhile, in Anaheim, Bartolo Colon threw eight shutout innings as the Athletics posted a 6-0 win over the struggling Angels. No biggie normally. Except he threw 38 straight strikes at one point in the game, the most recorded since official pitch-by-pitch charting began in 1988 (Tim Wakefield threw 30 in 1995). Colon finished with 108 pitches and 82 strikes to improve to 3-1. Think the Yankees could still use him?
If you want to see all 38 strikes, MLB.com has the video here. And pitch 39 was somehow called a ball by plate umpire Marvin Hudson when it was right down the middle too. Pretty funny to listen to how the A's announcers got into the run of strikes the last 10 pitches or so.
The season-opening homestand for the Buffalo Bisons ends this afternoon when the Herd hosts the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at 1 p.m. in Coca-Cola Field. The Herd is 4-4 on the homestand, including the last two games against the IronPigs by 4-1 scores.
Lefty Garrett Olson gets his third start of the season for the Herd. He was charged for the loss in his last outing against Pawtucket. He allwoed four runs, though only one was earned, in 4.1 innings of work. He had no-decision April 9 in Rochester giving up one run in five innings.
Lucas May gets the day off today, but the catcher tripled in back-to-back games. The last Bison catcher to have two triples in one season was Robinson Cancel in 2009.
Today's Bison lineup:
Jordany Valdespin -- CF Bobby Scales -- 2B Josh Satin -- 3B Valentino Pascucci -- 1B Adam Loewen -- RF Raul Reyes -- LF Rob Johnson -- C Omar Quintanilla -- SS Garrett Olson -- P
Righty Jeremy Hefner will get his third start of the season for the Buffalo Bisons as the Herd continues its series with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Coca-Cola Field. Hefner picked up a win in his season opener April 8 at Rochester but had a difficult outing last Friday, pithcing just 4 1/3 innings in a loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Today's lineup for the Herd:
Jordany Valdespin -- 2B Bobby Scales -- SS Valentino Pascucci -- 1B Zach Lutz -- 3B Vinny Rottino -- LF Matt Tuiasosopo -- RF Lucas May -- C Raul Reyes -- CF Jeremy Hefner -- P
The Bisons-Lehigh Valley game tonight in Coca-Cola Field is a 6:05 p.m. start. An incorrect graphics box was posted in today's print editions advertising a different time and a festival promotion that is not scheduled for this evening.
The Bisons and IronPigs play tonight at 6 and wrap up the homestand Thursday at 1. The teams have split the first two games, with Chris Schwinden leading the Bisons to a 4-1 win on Tuesday.
The Buffalo Bisons and Lehigh Valley IronPigs meet again tonight at Coca-Cola Field and the Bisons' goal better be to throw some strikes. After walking 10 more batters and drawing more ire from manager Wally Backman during Monday's 8-2 loss, the Bisons have issued 66 free passes in 12 games -- the most in all of professional baseball. Here's the list heading into tonight's games:
Yeesh. The Bisons are 2-4 on their homestand -- and the average time of game is 3 hours, 23 minutes. Yep, walks take time.
Chris Schwinden, who has walked eight in his two starts over nine innings, goes tonight for the Herd. Former Bison Pat Misch goes for Lehigh Valley, which is 10-2 and trying to tie its franchise record by winning seven straight games. One lineup note: First trip to the outfield this season for Valentino Pascucci, who will be in right field.
Here's the Herd lineup:
Jordany Valdespin, cf Bobby Scales, 2b Josh Satin, 1b Valentino Pascucci, rf Zach Lutz, 3b Vinny Rottino, lf Lucas May, c Omar Quintanilla, ss Chris Schwinden, p
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs fell two games shy of winning the International League championship last season and they're off to a quick start this year under second-year manager and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. The Pigs hit town tonight at 9-2 and on a five-game winning streak as they meet the Buffalo Bisons.
Interesting pitching matchup as Buffalo's Jeurys Familia goes against LV's Austin Hyatt. Good luck to Hyatt breaking the Phillies' rotation but he did lead the Eastern League last year in wins (12) and strikeouts (171) for Reading.
In one of his final columns last June, our late, great friend Allen Wilson did a terrific piece on Sandberg. It's a privilege here for me to tell you to go to this link and check it out. As is customary before basically every game, Sandberg is next to the visitors dugout signing autographs 20 minutes before the first pitch.
Meanwhile, Josh Satin is back in the Buffalo starting lineup after spending a day with the Mets on the new taxi squad in case David Wright went on the DL. Satin got into yesterday's 10-9, 10-inning win over Pawtucket as a pinch-hitter. Second baseman Bobby Scales continues to lead the IL in batting at .448.
The Buffalo lineup:
Jordany Valdespin, cf Bobby Scales, 2b Josh Satin, 1b Zach Lutz, 3b Vinny Rottino, lf Adam Loewen, rf Rob Johnson, c Omar Quintanilla, ss Jeurys Familia, p
After some heavy morning rains, the skies have dried up at Coca-Cola Field and the Bisons and Pawtucket are set for a 1:15 start as the grounds crew does some final work on the field.
This will be the home debut for Buffalo right-hander Matt Harvey, the Mets' No. 1 draft pick in 2010. He's struggled so far, going 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in two starts (allowing 14 hits and five walks over 9 1/3 innings).
Red-hot second baseman Bobby Scales is batting second today for the Herd. Be sure to read my piece on today's paper on the 34-year-old Scales. He enters today leading the IL in batting (.458), on-base percentage (.567) and OPS (1.317), and is second in slugging (.750).
Here's the Buffalo lineup:
Jordany Valdespin, ss Bobby Scales, 2b Valentino Pascucci, dh Zach Lutz, 1b Vinny Rottino, lf Raul Reyes, cf Matt Tuiasosopo, 3b Adam Loewen, rf Rob Johnson, c
The Bisons and Pawtucket Red Sox open a two-game set today in Coca-Cola Field and the Pawtucket pitcher will be 25-year-old right-hander Alex Wilson, who was Boston's minor-league pitcher of the year last season after going 9-4, 3.05 at Double-A Portland and 1-0, 3.43 with the Pawsox. Wilson allowed one run in five innings and got a no-decision is his lone start this year, last Saturday against Lehigh Valley.
Jordany Valdespin, cf Bobby Scales, 2b Valentino Pascuci, dh Vinny Rottino, lf Zach Lutz, 1b Matt Tuiasosopo, 3b Adam Loewen, rf Rob Johnson, c Omar Quintanilla,ss
Buffalo utility man Josh Satin is not here today. He's in New York and has been placed on the Mets' 24-hour taxi squad. That's a new rule this year to prepare players for promotion (see David Wright) but allows them to be replaced so the minor-league clubs aren't short. Catcher Jean Luc Blaquiere has been called up from Class A St. Lucie for today's game.
The Bisons continue their opening homestand by closing out their series with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. This morning, Scranton put yesterday's starter, Manny Banuelos, on the disabled list. Banuelos gave up two runs on three hits with six walks in just two innings of work.
Today, righty D.J. Mithcell (1-0) gets the start for the Yankees. He is 4-0 career against the Bisons with a 1.04 earned run average. Buffalo will counter with righty Jeremy Hefner (1-0, 2.57 ERA) who went seven innigns in a 5-3 win at Rochester on Sunday. Those seven innings are the most by a Herd starter this season.
Today's starting lineups:
Bisons: Jordany Valdespin -- CF Bobby Scales -- 2B Josh Satin -- DH Valentino Pascucci -- 1B Vinny Rottino -- LF Zach Lutz -- 3B Adam Loewen -- RF Lucas May -- C Omar Quintanilla -- SS
Scranton: Kevin Russo -- LF Ramior Pena -- 2B Steve Pearce --1B Jack Cust -- DH Dewayne Wise -- CF Brandon Laird -- 3B Colin Curtis -- RF Craig Tatum -- C Doug Bernier -- SS
Chris Schwinden will make his Coca-Cola Field debut this afternoon as the Herd plays Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The righty was the Bisons Most Valuable Pitcher last year after earning eight wins with 134 strikeouts 00 the third most in a single season by a Bison in the Modern Era. Schwinden opened the season with a win over Rochester last wee. He gave up just two unearned runs in five innings.
Buffalo: Jordany Valdespin -- CF Bobby Scales -- SS Josh Satin -- 1B Valentino Pascuccio -- DH Zach Lutz -- 3B Matt Tuiasosopo -- RF Lucas May -- C Michael Fisher -- 2B Chris Schwinden -- P
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Kevin Russo -- 2B Francisco Cervelli -- C Steve Pearce -- 1B Jack Cust -- DH Dewayne Wise -- RF Brandon Laird -- 3B Colin Curtis -- CF Ramiro Pena -- SS Ray Kruml -- LF Manny Banuelos -- P
Had a good pregame chat with Bisons manager Wally Backman this morning near the indoor batting cages in advance of today's home opener. It's a 2 p.m. start against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the sun is trying to break through. The team is taking batting practice on the field and rain does not appear to be an issue (If you come, the team has announced you get a free ticket to a future game on this homestand).
The Bisons hit town with a 3-3 record and they've been pitching-heavy at this point.
Buffalo is second in the International League in team ERA at 2.12 -- and the bullpen is at 0.90 for 20 innings. The Herd is batting just .232 and has only 18 runs in the six games, with its six homers third in the IL (Val Pascucci is tied for the IL lead with three).
"We could have very easily come home 6-0," Backman said. "They played well on the road. To be able to play and be 3-3 on the road is OK. It's satisfying. Still, I was a little disappointed and I think the staff was a little disappointed. We had opportunities to win every ballgame. With that being said, that's a good thing. If we can play .500 on the road and come home and play .650 or .750 at home, when it all comes to the end, we'll be in good shape."
Six Bisons are batting .200 or below thus far. Bobby Scales (6 for 12), Vinny Rottino (7 for 21) and Zach Lutz (6 for 20) are the only hot average bats.
"It's early in the season. It's cold out there right now and I think things will get better," Backman said. "We do have a very solid starting pitching staff and they're going to keep us in the ballgame. As long as the offense produces the way we believe it's going to produce, the averages will climb. The power is going to be here all year long so we're excited about it."
Jeurys Familia will make the start for Buffalo today. He went 4 2/3 innings in his first start Friday at Pawtucket, allowing one run on five hits and earning a no-decision. Familia and former No. 1 draft pick Matt Harvey are the much-ballyhooed top of the Buffalo rotation. Harvey is 0-1, 5.79 in two starts and has given up 14 hits in just 9 1/3 innings.
"I'd like to see [Familia] get a little bit deeper in the game than he did last time," Backman said. "We'd like to see him get into the sixth or seventh inning. Keep his pitch count down a little bit. Him and Harvey, the pitch counts have been a little bit too high too fast. We have to pitch to earlier contact. They're both power guys but hopefully he pitches to contact more. More first-pitch strikes."
Big Yankees pitching prospects are here as well. Dellin Betances, a 6-foot-8 former Yankee Stadium bleacher creature, goes today and Manny Banuelos throws tomorrow.
"For a major-league club, you're always looking for pitching and when you have your prospects in Triple-A, you're always paying close attention," Backman said. "I'm sure Terry [Mets manager Terry Collins] is playing close attention as the way [Joe] Girardi is as well for the Yankees."
Oh, Mets, Mets, Mets. Andres Torres battled a calf problem the last two weeks of spring training. So what happened to him on Opening Day Thursday in Citi Field? Strained calf in the seventh inning. Limps off the field and limps on to the disabled list.
So the Mets have called up center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the Bisons, taking a key cog from the Herd after just one game. Nieuwenhuis went 0 for 2 with two walks and a stolen base in Thursday's 4-2 loss at Pawtucket. He's likely to make his big-league debut for the Mets Saturday against Atlanta.
Wonder if this means Jordany Valdespin gets some time in center field now for the Herd. He got a look from the Mets there during spring training, and the Bisons have infield utility guys like Bobby Scales and Michael Fisher on their roster who could man Valdespin's spot at second base.
3 p.m. update: Outfielder Raul Reyes, who batted .200 in 18 games for the Bisons last year, has been promoted from Double-A Binghamton. He averaged .292 with 20 doubles, 12 home runs, 50 RBIs and six stolen bases in 106 games at Binghamton last year under current Buffalo manager Wally Backman.
Forget that Seattle-Oakland 6 a.m. drivel from Japan or the annual made-for-ESPN first-night game that we got last night in Miami. Today is the real Opening Day for both the major leagues and the Bisons and it's the day we all get cranked up into baseball mode (OK, at least until the Sabres' game starts at 7).
Here's how I'm going to flip my dial:
---Red Sox at Tigers and Braves at Mets at 1: Justin Verlander is always must-see TV and so will be Prince Fielder's debut at Comerica Park and Bobby Valentine's debut with the Red Sox. But the Bisons' parent bears watching too on the day Johan Santana finally returns to the mound.
---Nationals at Cubs at 2:20: Stephen Strasburg in an Opening Day start at Wrigley. Gotta love that.
---Blue Jays at Indians at 3: I'm assuming I'm radio only here, that we'll get the continued ridiculous blackout of the Tribe and Pirates on all but DirecTV (I have FIOS). I really think this can be a playoff year for the Blue Jays and will we see spring training continue? The Jays had the AL's best record (24-7) and the Tribe had the AL's worst (7-22). I still have plenty of friends in the front office and press box in Cleveland so you always hope for the best for them.
Our Bisons preview is in today's editions with plenty more from Wally Backman and the players as the season opens tonight in Pawtucket (with the home opener Wednesday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). Pretty obvious from the opening paragraphs what I think: The Bisons better be looking for a new parent this fall if this edition of the Mets' farmhands flames out.
Also be sure to catch my International League preview, which talks about all the crazy activity going on up and down the New York State Thruway this season. Several inquiries about Andy Pettitte and I did not mention him with Scranton because he's opening the season in extended spring in Florida and there's no way to tell if the Yankees will send him to their Triple-A nomads or make life easy and put him in Double-A Trenton for a few starts.
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.
Opening Day in the big leagues -- the real one, not that Japan stuff -- is Wednesday when the Cardinals visit the Marlins and Thursday for most everybody else. So we've got your first pitch in today's print editions of The Buffalo News.
Read Jerry Sullivan's essay on the simmering of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, complete with a terrific full-page graphic highlighting the rivalry by staff artist Dan Zakroczemski. I offer an expanded view of my weekly rankings of the 30 MLB teams that we run each Sunday during the season, and Sully and I then make our picks for individual awards and who will earn rings come October. There's also Jay Skurski's fantasy out look and Greg Connors' Mixed Media column on the 10th anniversary of the YES Network.
Get all that in today's print editions of The News. And then be on the lookout later this week for our preview of the Bisons' 2012 season, which opens Thursday in Pawtucket.
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 15 World Series -- including every pitch of the Fall Classic 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.
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.