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Today's MLB Preview Section has all the bases covered

Jays
The cover illustration of today's MLB preview section by News staff artist Dan Zakroczemski.

 


By Mike Harrington

The baseball season opens tonight with the Astros' inaugural game in the American League and really kicks into high gear tomorrow with the official Opening Day that includes Red Sox-Yankees in the Bronx. I'll be on hand Tuesday night at the Rogers Centre in Toronto for the Blue Jays'  much-anticipated opener against Terry Francona's Cleveland Indians (how strange that sounds).

Be sure to read all about the upcoming season in today's MLB preview section. Here's a look at the starting lineup:

---As I sat through the Florida chill -- and there was plenty of it last week -- I composed a lot of thoughts on the Blue Jays' history, their long playoff drought and their new tie-in to Buffalo. Be sure to read my essay on it all here, complete with thoughts from Cy Young winner and ex-Bison R.A. Dickey and longtime broadcaster Jerry Howarth.

(And if you missed it, be sure to double back to this link for my audio podcast with Howarth taped last week during batting practice in Florida. Love the sound of bat hitting ball in the background).

---He's been one of ours for 24 years now but Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan grew up in Rhode Island as an unabashed Red Sox fan. Times are likely to be tough this year for both the Sox and the Yankees, which hasn't happened much over the last two two decades. In his essay on the Yanks and Sox, Sully says it reminds him of fighting as 9-year-olds with his best friend, Brian, over which team will stink less.

---In my preseason MLB power rankings, the Giants start at No. 1 and a third World Series title in four years would certainly put them in some rare air.

---Greg Connors' Mixed Media column puts the focus on Tim McCarver, the FOX analyst who is one of the game's most polarizing figures as he heads into his final season. Yes, McCarver talks too much at times. But he's perhaps the greatest television analyst in the history of the game. Nobody has done more jewel events, be it All-Star Games or World Series telecasts. 

---Jay Skurski's fantasy breakdown gives you a look at some good sleeper picks. Some are prospects you've probably never heard of. Some of the names might surprise you.

As for the Bisons, they hit town for their first workout Tuesday in advance of Thursday's opener at Coca-Cola Field. Amy Moritz and I will have full coverage of the Herd's hopes in their first year as a Toronto affiliate in Wednesday's paper.

Ex-Bison Tuiasosopo makes Tigers' Opening Day roster

MattTu
Matt Tuiasosopo: From Buffalo to Detroit. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

By Mike Harrington

Bisons manager Wally Backman loved Matt Tuiasosopo last year, constantly talking up the journeyman for a callup to New York that never came. But it turns out other teams were watching Tuiasosopo, who hit .242 with 12 homers and 57 RBIs in 131 games for the Herd.

The Detroit Tigers were apparently trying to trade for him late last season but couldn't get him until he signed a minor-league deal over the winter. Now Jim Leyland has decided that Tuiasosopo will start the year in Detroit, and not Toledo, as a right-handed option off the bench. Tuiasosopo hit .286 with four homers this spring and had a big bounceback -- including a home run off Stephen Strasburg -- after an 0-for-14 start

"I don't think anybody in here can disagree that this kid deserves a shot," Leyland said. "He's stung the ball. He's hit the ball out of the ballpark. He's hit the ball hard."

Bisons guaranteeing a win on Opening Day

By Mike Harrington

We're less than a week away from the Bisons' historic opener as a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate Thursday at 2:05 in Coca-Cola Field, and the Herd announced today the game against the Rochester Red Wings will be a Guaranteed Win day.

If the Bisons lose, all fans in attendance will receive a ticket for a future fridaynightbash! game during the 2013 season. Tickets for the game can be purchased at the ballpark box office on the Swan Street side, by calling THE-HERD (843-4373) or by logging on to the ticketing section of Bisons.com

The Bisons remind fans the print-at-home feature to buy tickets on their Web site has no service charge. (Nice. Never understood how teams charge for that -- it's my ink and my paper!!)

Spring training podcast: Blue Jays radio voice Jerry Howarth

JerryBy Mike Harrington

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- To say there's anticipation and excitement at Blue Jays camp this month is a gross understatement. The place is pumped for what everyone hopes will be Toronto's first playoff run since 1993, when Joe Carter's ninth-inning home run beat the Phillies in Game Six of the World Series.

There's also a buzz because of the new affiliation between the Blue Jays and Bisons. The minor-league players are talking about it, the media is interested in making trips across the Peace Bridge and I probably got stopped by eight or nine fans I didn't even know at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium who saw "Buffalo" on my press pass to talk about the team or Coca-Cola Field.

With all that in mind, I had a chance to sit down with longtime Blue Jays radio voice Jerry Howarth and discuss the current state of the Jays and turned it into an audio podcast.

Howarth, who came on the air in Toronto in 1981, called all the glory days seasons with legendary partner Tom Cheek, and was the 2012 winner of the Jack Graney Award presented by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for contributions by a media member to the game in Canada.

Click below to hear Howarth talk about the feelings on camp, his thoughts on the moves made over the winter by GM Alex Anthopoulos, the new affiliation with Buffalo and his emotions on the news that his late partner Cheek will be honored in Cooperstown this summer with the Ford C. Frick award for broadcast excellence.

Jerry Howarth

Gose among another big group Jays send to Herd

By Mike Harrington

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Another big group of players sent back to minor-league camp for the Buffalo Bisons today by the Toronto Blue Jays, and the headliner is fleet outfielder Anthony Gose.

Gose, 22, should be Buffalo's starting center fielder. He hit .267 in spring training with a homer, three RBIs and five stolen bases. His red flag is 16 strikeouts but he also drew 11 walks.

"He's got a chance to be really good," said Jays manager John Gibbons. "He just has to get his swing together, cut down on his strikeouts. That will be big for him. Defensively and on the bases, he's pretty dog-gone good right now. He's a 22-year-old kid probably where he needs to be. When he irons that bat out, who knows how good he can be?"

Continue reading "Gose among another big group Jays send to Herd" »

Talkin' Bisons and Jays on KB

Jays buildingBy Mike Harrington

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It's a dark, windy day down south and the Bisons are taking on the Indianapolis Indians about 90 minutes south of here in Bradenton. Be sure to catch up with my story in today's paper on Marty Brown's early thoughts on how camp is going 10 days before the season opener.

Bisons play-by-play voice Ben Wagner was here last week doing several interviews with potential Bisons players and many will air tonight at 7 pm. on WWKB (Radio 1520 AM). Wagner also taped a segment with this corner and you can listen to it below.

(Memo to Buffalo: I'm coming back in five days. Get the weather situation straightened out).

Mike Harrington with Ben Wagner

(Photo of Blue Jays minor-league complex. Look which logos is top center.)

Negrych sent to Herd after great camp with Blue Jays

JimNeg
Jim Negrych made a big impression in the Blue Jays' big-league camp. (AP Photo)

 

By Mike Harrington

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- I'll be meeting the Sabres Monday in Tampa so I took an early detour down south where it's 50-degrees-ish cold -- I hear all your sympathy pangs -- to check out Blue Jays/Bisons camp. The Jays are playing the Red Sox and old friends John Farrell and Torey Lovullo today at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. (Lovullo demanded Sabres updates when I saw him on the field pregame. I told him Ryan Miller hasn't been too chatty lately. Heh.)

I've already checked in with Bisons manager Marty Brown and will have a story on his early thoughts on the Herd with a week to go in camp in Sunday's paper. The Blue Jays sent a bunch of guys out to minor-league camp today and one of them was infielder and St. Francis product Jim Negrych, who made a big impression with the at-bats he got.

Negrych got into 20 big-league games and went 12 for 28, with his .429 average tied for third on the club entering today. He had three doubles, two homers, six RBIs, drew five walks, had an on-base percentage of .515 and a slugging percentage of .750. In the previous two years in Marlins and Pirates camp, he had only four big-league at-bats.

Continue reading "Negrych sent to Herd after great camp with Blue Jays" »

Bisons' Open House is today at noon at the ballpark

By Mike Harrington

The Bisons' annual Open House at Coca-Cola Field runs today from noon-3 at the ballpark (opens at 11 a.m. for season ticket-holders only). In addition, tickets for the entire 2013 season, the first as a Toronto affiliate, go on sale at 10 a.m. 

The open house features tours of all levels of the ballpark, including restricted areas like the Bisons' clubhouse and press box, a free hot dog and Coca-Cola product for all fans, kids games, merchandise sales and much more.

The complete rundown can be found here. 

Audio: Dat Dude (aka ex-Bison Brandon Phillips) with Jim Rome

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By Mike Harrington

Former Bisons star Brandon Phillips is getting his first chance to represent Team USA at the World Baseball classic and, of course, is loving every minute of it (right).

Phillips, whose Twitter account of @DatDudeBP is one of the best of in professional sports and is approaching one million followers, was on Jim Rome's national radio show Wednesday afternoon. He talked about the WBC, how he's going to honor his 1 millionth follower, playing for Joe Torre, and still being unable to wipe out the memory of the Cincinnati Reds' collapse to the Giants in last year's NLDS.

Hard to believe it's 11 years since Phillips showed up with the Bisons after the Cleveland Indians' whopper of a trade with the Montreal Expos for Bartolo Colon. And Phillips' heroics for the Herd in its 2004 championship season? Nine years ago. Wow.

Click below to hear Phillips' interview with Rome.


Brandon Phillips

Photo: (@DatDudeBP via USA Baseball)

Bisons ticket presale opens today

Bisons 2013 logo IBy Mike Harrington

We're less than a month away from Opening Day of the Toronto Blue Jays era at Coca-Cola Field as the Bisons host the Rochester Red Wings on April 4 at 2:05 p.m. in the first game of their new affiliation. The Bisons are putting individual tickets on sale today for all games of the 2013 season in a special Internet-only offer at Bisons.com.

There are no service charges for the online presale, which begins today at 9 a.m. and runs through Friday at 9 p.m. Tickets to all 72 home games are available and that includes the ultra-popular dates like Opening Day, Star Wars Night (June 22), Independence Eve with the BPO (July 3), the just-announced Bobblehead Night featuring R.A. Dickey (July 24) and Fan Appreciation Night (Aug. 29).

In-person sales for the 2013 season begin Saturday at 10 a.m. in conjunction with the team's annual Open House at the ballpark. That runs from noon-3 with free admission. All fans receive a free Sahlen's Hot Dog and Coca-Cola soft drink. Fans will also be able to purchase a ticket voucher good for two tickets to Opening Day for only a $5 donation to Coaches vs. Cancer.

There will be tours of the press box, clubhouse and party suites, a chance to view artifacts and trophies from the team's history, raffles, merchandise sales and kids activities like XBox Home Run Challenge on the Bisons TV HDBoard.

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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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