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A video and photo recap of the home opener

Be sure to check out Harry Scull's photo gallery from the Bisons' 12-3 win over Scranton in the home opener at Coca-Cola Field on Wednesday.

Mike Harrington and Amy Moritz provide a video recap below:

 

Hear the Herd after big win in home opener

Lots of smiles in the Buffalo clubhouse after Wednesday's 12-3 romp past Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the home opener. Lots of shaking heads too after a wildly changing weather day too.

The Bisons hit four homers, two by Zach Lutz, and set a franchise record for runs in a home opener as Wally Backman got a win in his first home game as Buffalo manager.

Listen in below to our postgame chats with Backman, Lutz and Valentino Pascucci.


Wally Backman


Zach Lutz


Val Pascucci

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

Live from Coca-Cola Field: It's the home opener

Backman's pregame report: Get the bats going

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."

The Buffalo lineup: Valdespin-CF, Scales-2b, Satin-1b, Pascucci-dh, Rottino-lf, Lutz-3b, Loewen-rf, Johnson-c,  Quintanilla-ss.

For more from Backman, including thoughts on Jordany Valdespin's move to center field and a potential callup to replace David Wright, click the audio file below.


Wally Backman

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

Herd season opener lost, Nieuwenhuis lost to Mets

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.

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

Happy Opening Day!

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.

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

Bisons hit town with top Mets prospect Harvey slated to start opener in Pawtucket

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.


Wally Backman


Matt Harvey

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

In Sunday's print editions: The MLB 2012 preview

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
(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 | 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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