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Looking back at Bisons' home openers

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- I won't be at Coca-Cola Field today as I'm here in the shadow of the Gateway Arch chasing Ryan Miller and Jake McCabe in the same downtown where I spent plenty of time last October. I'm also apparently going to be dodging tornadoes all day too. Yeesh.

Much better back home for today's Bisons home opener, which will be just the second one in Coca-Cola Field's 27 seasons that I have missed. Strangely enough, the other one was also on April 3 -- in 2003, while I was covering Carmelo Anthony-led Syracuse in the Final Four with New Orleans.

The Bisons are 16-10 in CCF openers and have won three of the last four. Amazingly enough, they have scored 12 runs in each of the last two home openers, posting a 12-3 win over Scranton in 2012 in their final year as a Mets affiliate and a 12-7 win last year over Rochester in their debut with the Blue Jays. That's some un-Sabres-like offense there! 

Those games were certainly fun and there's been plenty of good moments in the curtain-raisers downtown. Here's a quick flip through my mind of some of the most interesting moments, with links to stories. (No link to the first one, unfortunately, as our electronic system dates to 1989).

April 14, 1988 -- Buffalo 1, Denver 0. There is no other comparison. The parade, the ceremonies on Swan Street, the first pitch, the home run by Tom Prince, the near no-hitter by Bob Patterson. We will never feel the way we did that day. Somebody, bless your heart, has a great YouTube posted of it all. Relive it here.

April 8, 1993 -- Buffalo 8, Omaha 1. It was my first opener as the paper's No. 1 beat writer covering the team and the first year I went to spring training. I reveled in 80-degree weather in Florida and it was perfect here too. It was 76 and sunny. Best weather day we've ever had for an opener. 

April 10, 1998 -- Buffalo 4, Rochester 0. The Herd's return to the International League was delayed a day by rain and so was the team's 1997 American Association championship banner ceremony but the game was just about perfect. Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famers Torey Lovullo and Richie Sexson both homered.

April 12, 2000 -- Buffalo 6, Ottawa 2. An otherwise nondescript game is made memorable by a 42-minute delay in the fifth inning when a heavy snow squall hits the ballpark while Chan Perry is trying to bat. "I had two snowflakes hit me in the eye in five pitches," Perry said. "It was just like you had five million mosquitoes or gnats, whatever you want to choose, coming straight at your face. It was horrible."

April 3, 2003 -- Buffalo 10, Pawtucket 8 as Jody Gerut tells Amy Moritz of ice in his hat and cleats. The coldest opener ever was played through sleet and 29-degree temperatures. And the next SIX days were all postponed by winter weather. The one I missed was pretty bizarre.

April 11, 2008 -- Toledo 4, Buffalo 1.  A rainy and warm Friday night is made more significant by the fact the Cleveland Indians announce they're not discussing an extension of the working agreement until after the season. It pretty much sealed the fact they were leaving for Columbus after the season.

Bisons legend Jeff Manto earns nod to IL Hall of Fame; induction will be here in August

Manto
Jeff Manto in 2000. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

By Mike Harrington

Slugging infielder Jeff Manto -- the only modern-era Bison to have his number retired -- is one of three members of the Class of 2014 for the International League Hall of Fame, the league announced today.

Manto, Buffalo's modern-era home run king with 79 from 1997-2000, will be joined by current Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Dave Miley and longtime Toledo broadcaster Jim Weber. Each member will be inducted during a ceremony in an IL city, and Manto's will come during the Bisons' series against Norfolk from Aug. 11-14 in Coca-Cola Field (date to be determined).

Manto was the IL MVP in 1994, a year he split between Norfolk and Rochester, and has recently taken a job as the minor-league hitting instructor for Norfolk's parent, the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore's director of minor-league operations is Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Graham, Manto's manager on the 1997 Bisons who won the final American Association championship.

Manto is one of only three players in the 128 seasons of Bisons baseball to have his number (30) retired by the club. He joined fellow IL Hall of Famers Ollie Carnegie and Luke Easter in earning the honor during a lavish ceremony in 2001.

Manto hit 125 home runs between seven different IL teams in his career. His '94 season between Norfolk and Rochester saw him lead the league with 31 homers and 100 RBIs.

Manto hit 20 homers in 54 games for Buffalo in 1997 after a midseason trade with Toronto and ended up on the Cleveland Indians' 25-man World Series roster. He hit .311 with 23 homers in 62 games for the Bisons in 1998 as the team won the IL title in its return to the league, and Manto hit .533 during the Triple-A World Series in Las Vegas.

Manto hit 23 more home runs while hitting .296 for the Herd in 1999 before playing 94 games and hitting 13 homers in 2000. He retired following that season to embark on a coaching and managerial career in the minors. He has also been a big league hitting coach for Pittsburgh and the Chicago White Sox. He was fired by the White Sox on the final weekend last season and moved on to Baltimore.

Manto, who was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, becomes the 28th former Bisons player or manager to be inducted into the IL Hall. The full list by year is at this link. Inductees are selected by a panel of living Hall of Famers, longtime executives, broadcasters, and members of the media. There is no actual IL Hall building. Inductees receive a large trophy plaque and the league maintains a traveling exhibit on the Hall to celebrate its heritage.

You can read my 2001 story on Manto's Buffalo career at this link.

As Buffalo BB Hall of Famer Lovullo eyes World Series bid, Cubs eye him for manager's office

LovulloBy Mike Harrington

Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Torey Lovullo (left), now the bench coach under ex-Bisons pitcher and Cleveland farm director John Farrell in Boston, has the biggest game of his life on tap for tonight as the Red Sox try to wrap up another trip to the World Series in Game Six of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

But whenever Boston's season is over, Lovullo may have even more on his plate becuase his name is getting plenty of play for open managerial jobs.

There are all kinds of reports today that the Chicago Cubs want to interview Lovullo to replace the deposed Dale Sveum. Aside from being a good candidate, Lovullo goes back with Chicago GM Theo Epstein because he managed the Red Sox Triple-A farm club in Pawtucket in 2010.

The Seattle Mariners also seem interested in Lovullo to replace another former Bisons skipper in Eric Wedge. Lovullo, remember, interviewed for the Red Sox job when Bobby Valentine was hired in 2012 (that sure worked well). He's also interviewed with Cleveland, Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

"Right now, our focus is on what’s happening here,” Lovullo said this week in Detroit. “I would like to manage one day, but I’m not here to fast-forward anything or make it happen before its time.”

Lovullo was one of the key members of the Bisons' championship teams in 1997 and 1998, and was a regular on the 1995 team that came within one win of another title. He then managed the Herd from 2006-2008, the final three years of the Cleveland affiliation. He spent the last two years as the first-base coach in Toronto under Farrell before joining him in Boston. 

(Lovullo photo: Getty Images)

The Biogenesis Bans: Leadoff thoughts

By Mike Harrington

Talking out loud about MLB's announcements today from the Biogenesis scandal ... 

A-Rod: He reportedly infuriated Bud Selig with his comments Friday night in Trenton that there was a "pink elephant" in the room and it was the fact that MLB and the Yankees were conspiring to keep him off the field, with the Yankees most interested in getting out of his contract. The Commish then shut town all talks of a settlement, with ARod contending he should be no more penalized than Ryan Braun. We'll see about that.

On the field, the Yankees can use A-Rod, even at less than 100 percent. He's still going to be far more productive than anyone they've had at third base all year. But if he stays on the field for any length of time, how will they deal with the daily fan and media circus on the road? And what will be the reaction when A-Rod steps on the field in the Bronx? 

Selig knew he couldn't go for a lifetime ban, and that the union would have to defend A-Rod on simple due process if he did. So he went for a suspension through the Joint Drug Policy, which allows for the appeal. That should be heard within the next three weeks or so. 

Read the full text of Selig's statement here. 

Read the Yankees' statement here.

A-Rod is trying to maximize the money he can make by staying on the field but I'm betting this carries into 2015 -- not 2014 -- before it's all done. He's never failed a test and this is more about obstruction of MLB's investigation. It seems more personal than ever between A-Rod and Selig, much like it was at the end between Bart Giamatti and Pete Rose in 1989.

The Commish: Selig wants his legacy to be about 1). Getting rid of PEDs from baseball; 2) adding the wild-card to get more cities interested deeper into the season; and 3) fixing the All-Star Game after the 2002 tie fiasco. He's looking at retirement in the next two years and it's interesting that the PED situation became such a focus, given the way baseball was complicit in it through the McGwire-Sosa home run chase of 1998. Better late than never, I suppose. 

Continue reading "The Biogenesis Bans: Leadoff thoughts" »

From the archives: Links to today's baseball memories

Roberts
Dave Roberts' famous steal of second in the 2004 ALCS (Getty Images).


By Mike Harrington

I'll be joining Dave Roberts and Ernie Young tonight in the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame, and be sure to read my column in today's editions about my top memories on the Bisons/MLB beat the last 20 years. 

I also wrote a story today about Young's memories of Buffalo and Sunday's Inside Baseball column featured a chat with Roberts on his famous stolen base with the Red Sox in 2004. 

Want even more reading material? Jerry Sullivan wrote this column on Young after the 2000 Olympic gold medal game in Australia, four years before he joined the Bisons.

As for my memories list, here's a look back to the stories I produced on the scene at each of the moments in the article: 

1. Yankees-Arizona World Series Game 7 in 2001 -- Luis Gonzalez's game-winner.

2. 2004 ALCS/World Series -- Red Sox beat Yankees and Cardinals
    Game Seven of the ALCS        Game Four of the World Series 

3. Bisons 1997 clincher at Iowa --- Story one: Recap of Sean Casey's home run   Story two: Torey Lovullo presenting Bob Rich the game ball 

4. 2004 IL finals Game Four -- Bisons win title at home

5. 2007 Cleveland Indians -- A feature heading into the postseason

6. 1998 Bisons clincher -- Game Five in Durham

7. 2000 Subway Series -- Story one: The crazy Piazza press conference the day after BatGate. Story two: The Yankees' Game Five clincher. 

8. 2008 All-Star Game -- A web-only version filed at 3 a.m.

9. 2011 World Series Game Six -- Some scorebook pencils bit the dust in the 10th when the Cardinals tied it again.

10. 1995 ALDS Game One -- Ex-Bison Tony Pena sends us home at 2:08 a.m.

What didn't make my cut? Some pretty good ones.

There was Jeff Manto's three-homer game in 1997, the Bisons' 19-inning loss to Scranton in Game Five of the IL semifinals two nights before 9/11, Roger Clemens' one-hitter at Seattle in the 2000 ALCS, the opener at new Yankee Stadium in 2009, Stephen Strasburg's visit to Buffalo in 2011 and my chat with Hall of Famer Bob Feller during Strasburg's outing in Cleveland two weeks later, and last year's Triple-A All-Star Game in Buffalo.

(Bartolo Colon's no-hitter here in 1997 is not on any list because I was off that night, although I was in the ballpark to witness it.) 

Go to the video: In '04, new Buffalo BB Hall inductee Roberts became an October hero forever

By Mike Harrington

Dave Roberts and Ernie Young have been announced as the player inductees for the 2013 class of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame today, and they will be enshrined prior to the July 19 game against Toledo in Coca-Cola Field.

(Full disclosure: Your neighborhood beat writer/columnist/blogger has been named in the Contributor category. Huge thanx to all who have texted, tweeted, called or approached today. Massive honor).

Young was the power-hitting first baseman/DH of the 2004 and 2005 teams while Roberts is the modern-era stolen base leader in a Buffalo career that began late in 1998 and stretched through 2001. Roberts, now the first-base coach of the San Diego Padres, is much more remembered for his stolen base in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS for the Red Sox and for the tying run he scored off Mariano Rivera that got Boston even and kick-started its historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the series.

I was pretty fortunate to be in the house on assignment that night in Fenway, and Roberts and I had a good chat about it the next day prior to Game Five. Little did anyone know at the time, of course, how historically significant the play would become.

Here's a pair of must-see videos on Roberts. The first is ESPN's "30 for 30" segment on the Roberts stolen base from the epochal "Four Days in October" episode on the 2004 ALCS. The second is an interview NESN did with Roberts last week when he was at Fenway Park with the Padres:

Mariners coach Datz, ex-Bisons manager, reveals cancer diagnosis

By Mike Harrington

Seattle Mariners third-base coach Jeff Datz, who managed the Bisons to the 1998 International League championship and a berth in the Las Vegas Triple-A World Series, announced today he has been diagnosed with cancer and might be away from the team for periods of time.  The kind of cancer was not disclosed, although Datz has a history of skin cancer; the Seattle Times, however, is saying this is not related.

"The good news is that it was caught very early, and I have great support from my wife, my family, Eric (Wedge), the coaches and staff, all the players and the Mariners organization," Datz said in a written statement released to the media.

Datz, 53, worked under Wedge for eight years in Cleveland, including the 2007 Indians team that fell one win shy of the World Series. They first started working closely in 1998, when Datz was managing the Bisons and Wedge was at Double-A Akron.

Datz's '98 Buffalo team wiped out a huge deficit in the IL North to finish 81-62 and win the division by a half game. The Bisons then swept Syracuse and won the IL title with a Game Five win at Durham before losing the World Series to New Orleans in four games. The Herd was 72-72 under Datz in 1999.

Quick thoughts: Blue Jays opener

RA
It was a tough night for Colby Rasmus (left) and R.A. Dickey. (Associated Press)

 

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- Quick thoughts on the Blue Jays' clunker of an opener, Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the clearly-improved Cleveland Indians:

1). Pretty surprising to see this offense held to four hits -- only one over the final seven innings. But Asdrubal Cabrera's diving stop at second on Adam Lind's shot up the middle with the bases loaded and no outs in the third was a game-changing play.

2). R.A. Dickey's knuckleball was all over the place in the early going and I get several tweets from Mets fans pointing out the Jays are making a mistake keeping Josh Thole, Dickey's personal catcher, in Buffalo. Thole hit just .171 in spring and the Jays aren't willing to put a weak bat in their lineup. Dickey said J.P. Arencibia, who was charged with three passed balls, will get better.

Said Arencibia: "There are pitches he's going to throw that no one is going to catch unless you have a fishnet -- for a very large fish."

Continue reading "Quick thoughts: Blue Jays opener" »

Herd-Clips Lineup

Columbus is in town for a four-game series that opens at 2 this afternoon. The Clippers (Cleveland) have won three straight to improve to 5-5 in their last 10. The Bisons also are playing .500 ball over that stretch.

COLUMBUS (24-25)
Ezequiel Carrera, cf
Jason Donald, ss
Cord Phelps, 2b
Matt LaPorta, dh
Jared Goedert, lf
Chad Huffman, rf
Russ Canzler, 1b
Andy LaRoche, 3b
Matt Pagnozzi, c
******
Zach McAllister, p (3-1, 2.83)

BUFFALO (28-22)
Corey Wimberly, cf
Fred Lewis, lf
Valentino Pascucci, dh
Matt Tuiasosopo, 3b
Josh Satin, 1b
Jordany Valdespin, 2b
Lucas May, c
Dustin Martin, rf
Omar Quintanilla, ss
****
Dylan Owen, p (2-2, 3.19)

-- Bob DiCesare

Ten years later, Herd's 19-inning loss resonates as 9/11 anniversary nears

Ten years ago tonight -- Sept. 9, 2001 -- the  Buffalo Bisons played their last game before the world changed forever. And what a doozy it was.

The Eric Wedge-led Bisons lost, 6-2, to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons in 19 innings in the decisive Game Five of the Governors Cup semifinals at then-Dunn Tire Park. It still stands as the longest game in both innings and time (5:13) in the ballpark's history.

A two-run triple in the top of the 19th by No. 9 hitter Jason Knupfer, who was 0 for 16 in the series to that point, snapped a 2-2 tie. Scranton went on to add two insurance runs to wrap up the best-of-five series, three games to two. The Buffalo offense struggled because cleanup man Chris Coste, who had a series-high eight hits, didn't play the last 15 innings after getting ejected arguing a call at first base in the fourth.

Scranton advanced to meet Louisville in the IL finals and lost Game One, 2-1, the next night at Slugger Field. That was September 10. The next morning was September 11.

Game Two was canceled due to the terrorist attacks and the entire series was called off the next day, with Louisville declared the winner. I've often pondered the 19-inning game because I would have been in Louisville on 9/11 had the Bisons won. All air traffic was grounded, of course, and I would have driven home from Kentucky. (I know some New York reporters who drove all the way home from Denver after the Giants' Monday Night Football game on Sept. 10).

"I talked to a lot of fans the day after we lost and you thought losing a 19-inning baseball game was devastating," Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski told me the day the IL canceled the series. "Then you get jolted to reality. Baseball games aren't significant given what's going on right now."

The Bisons made the finals the next year and hosted an emotional pregame ceremony prior to Game Two against Durham on Sept. 11, 2002, the one-year anniversary. Coste recalled starting the drive home to North Dakota the day after the 19-inning loss and stopping for the night in Toledo, Ohio, then watching events of 9/11 from his hotel room.

""We woke up in the morning and all that happened,'' Coste said. ""I thought about a million things and baseball was obviously way in the background but you wondered if they were going to finish the season. As the days went on, you started thinking, "I wonder what it would have been like if we had been stuck in Louisville.'''

When the calendar flipped to October, I was fortunate enough to cover the Yankees' emotional ALCS win over Seattle and the incredible '01 World Series against Arizona. And I got a first-hand look, even several weeks later, at the shocking aftermath at Ground Zero. 

Be sure to read about my reflections on baseball in New York and elsewhere in the wake of 9/11 in Sunday's Inside Baseball column.

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

Pascucci snubbed as Bisons shut out of IL All-Stars

It's four years and counting for the Bisons in terms of failing to place anyone on the International League's postseason all-star team. The team was announced Tuesday morning and the Herd's only real candidate, first baseman/designated hitter Valentino Pascucci, was not named.

The last Buffalo all-star was Ben Francisco in 2007. The Herd had an impressive 21 all-stars in their 14 seasons with the Cleveland Indians but have had none in three years with the Mets, although Jesus Feliciano (2009), Dillon Gee (2010) and Pascucci, the current co-RBI leader with 91, all were likely close in balloting done by IL front office members, managers, coaches and media (Disclosure: I did have a vote).

The first baseman named was Indianapolis Matt Hague, who leads the league in hits (157) and games played (136). The DH who nosed Pascucci out was Scranton's Jorge Vazquez, who leads the league with 30 home runs. Pascucci's own pitchers could have helped here: Vazquez, a .260 hitter for the season, is batting .302 against the Bisons with nine -- yes, nine -- of his home runs in 14 games. 

Durham third baseman Russ Canzler (.312-18-79) was named the league's MVP, following in the footsteps of Bulls teammate last season. It's the first time since 1984-85, when former Yankees prospects Scott Bradley and Dan Pasqua of Columbus were honored, that a team claimed back-to-back MVPs.

Gwinnett pitcher Julio Teheran (15-2, 2.22) was an easy choice as IL Pitcher of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Gwinnett also took rookie of the year last year with first baseman Freddie Freeman and Teheran is the first player to take the pitcher and rookie awards in the same year since Scranton's Brandon Duckworth in 2001.

The manager of the year was Columbus' Mike Sarbaugh, who has led the Cleveland affiliate to 85 wins and a clear chance to defend its Triple-A National Championship. Ah, what we have missed here the last two years. Had to be a lot of sentiment in the voting for Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg of Lehigh Valley, who has the IronPigs in the playoff hunt for the first time.

The full squad:

1B -- Matt Hague, Indianapolis
2B -- Jason Kipnis, Columbus
3B -- Russ Canzler, Durham
SS -- Zach Cozart, Louisville
C -- Devin Mesoraco, Louisville 
OF -- Stefan Gartrell, Gwinnett; Alex Presley, Indianapolis; Dayan Viciedo, Charlotte
DH -- Jorge Vazquez, Scranton/WB 
Utility -- Luis Valbuena, Columbus
Starter -- Julio Teheran, Gwinnett
Reliever -- Tim Wood, Indianapolis

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

Jeter on DL, sort of like Bisons' homestand

Derek Jeter tried to talk his way out of it but his balky calf that was strained last night has landed him on the 15-day disabled list. So that means the price of Yankee tickets on StubHub for the upcoming road trip to Wrigley Field and Cincinnati probably went down a little as those folks won't see Jeter's 3,000th hit.

Jeter will be eligible to return June 29, the second game at home against the Brewers. The Yankees then play three games against the Mets at Citi Field July 1-3 -- and play a three-gamer at Cleveland July 4-6. Lots of Buffalo folks have tickets for those games. You might be in luck if he struggles or doesn't make it back by June 29. So Jeter will be stuck at 2,994 for a while.

Just like the Bisons seem to be stuck on this homestand. They're 1-6 heading into tonight's finale against the Columbus Clippers, who reminded us all what we're missing without the Cleveland Indians with last night's 8-2 win.

The Bisons have lost four straight and nine of 10. The Clippers have won seven straight and have the IL's best record (43-22). Not a good combination. Here's the Buffalo lineup:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Michael Fisher, 3b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Valentino Pascucci, dh
Zach Lutz, 1b
Jason Botts, lf
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Mike Nickeas, c
Bubba Bell, cf
----
Pat Misch, p

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

Ex-Bison Huff gets start against Herd

HuffFormer Bison David Huff (right) will start for the Columbus Clippers against the Herd tonight in Coca-Cola Field (It's a 7 p.m. game on Time Warner Cable 13). The Bisons (27-38) have lost eight of nine and this is clearly not a good time to be playing the defending Triple-A National Champion Clippers, who have won six straight and own the IL's best record at 42-22

Huff (4-2, 4.37) is the answer to a Buffalo trivia question, as he was the starter and winner in the Herd's last home game as a Cleveland affiliate, a 3-2 triumph over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 28, 2008. The Indians, of course, moved to Columbus for the '09 season. Huff and reliever Jensen Lewis are the only players on the Clippers' roster who once played Triple-A ball in Buffalo.

Huff was just 2-11, 6.21 in 15 starts for Cleveland last year and was most noted for getting smoked in the head by an Alex Rodriguez line drive. But he recovered from that and went 8-2 for Columbus in the regular season, then posted a 1.93 ERA in two starts in the IL playoffs and was the winning pitcher in the Triple-A National Championship victory over Tacoma.

Couple notes on the Bisons: Cleanup man Valentino Pascucci has 37 RBIs since May 10. No one else in the IL has more than 26 in that span. Dylan Owen will get the start for the Herd tonight. 

The Buffalo lineup:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Michael Fisher, 3b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Valentino Pascucci, 1b
Zach Lutz, dh
Jason Botts, lf
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Raul Chavez, c
Bubba Bell, cf
---
Dylan Owen, p

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

Photo: Huff works for the Herd in a 2008 game at then-Dunn Tire Park (John Hickey-Buffalo News file photo).

A different kind of night for ex-Bisons

PITTSBURGH -- No David Wright, no Ike Davis, no Johan Santana. Where would the Mets be without ... Dillon Gee? 

Believe it. Gee improved to 7-0 -- a first for a Mets rookie starter -- with Friday's 8-1 win here over the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park.

"I can't say enough good things about the job he's done on that mound controlling his emotions, keeping himself in the game and just making pitches," said manager Terry Collins. "It's been really amazing."

Click below to hear Gee's postgame session with reporters.


Dillon Gee

New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica rang up Collins from the clubhouse in Pittsburgh Friday afternoon for this column in which he marvels that the ramshackle Mets are just 6 1/2 games behind the Phillies. Writes Lupica: "As big a reason as any is the job the manager has done, because nobody in baseball has done a better one than he has so far."

As for the opposite of Gee, we bring you the case of Fausto Carmona, a 19-game winner in 2007 for the Indians who's now going nowhere fast and quickly failing in his role of supposed ace for his skidding club. Carmona completely went haywire Friday night in Yankee Stadium, drilling Mark Teixeira high on the shoulder one pitch after a Curtis Granderson home run. The teams met near the mound, with Joe Girardi and Manny Acta having to be separated.

Here's the comments of Acta in the Cleveland Plain Dealer after the 11-7 loss. Here's Teixeira and Girardi, among others, in the Daily News. 

You can bet the Yankees will get their pound of flesh sometime this weekend and whichever Cleveland player gets drilled can thank Carmona, he of the 3-8 record and 5.71 ERA. Didn't Carmona pay any attention to what went on the last three days with the Red Sox and figure the Yankees were going to say they've had enough?

As for today's ex-Bison hurlers, R.A. Dickey meets the Pirates here tonight at 7 on SNY, Bartolo Colon goes for the Yankees against the Indians at 1 on YES and Cliff Lee goes for the Phillies against the Cubs.

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

Wedge back in C-Town, Yanks and Red Sox open series in Bronx

CLEVELAND -- We've made it three hours to the west for tonight's Indians-Mariners game at Progressive Field in what will be ex-Indians and Bisons manager Eric Wedge's first game here since he was fired following the 2009 season. Keep it here for some updates later today on Wedge's pregame chat with the media, set for 5:25 p.m., and perhaps an update on Grady Sizemore's latest knee injury.

It's a busy Friday around the majors as well. Among the highlights: 

---The Yankees and Red Sox meet for the first time this year as they open a three-game set in the Bronx. Tonight's game at is 7 on YES and features a pitching matchup of Bartolo Colon and Clay Buchholz. Lots of questions around both teams, with the Yankees coming off Thursday's 11-5 whipping at the hands of the Royals and the Red Sox still reeling below .500

---Calm and cool Tigers ace Justin Verlander is the latest to try to match Johnny Vander Meer as he faces the Royals in his first start since Saturday's no-hitter in Toronto.

---Jered Weaver goes for his seventh win as the Angels play the Rangers in Texas.

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

Herd's recent big RBI games

Val Pascucci's six-RBI night for the Bisons in Tuesday's win over Scranton-Wilkes Barre was a first for the Herd since Todd Linden had six in 2008 at Durham. Bisons PR maven Brad Bisbing quickly provided that nugget during the game Tuesday.

Bisbing did some more research today and found it's just the third time in the last 11 years a Bison had six RBIs at home. The record is 9, set by Dusty Wathan in his three-homer game in 2005 against Toledo. Sean McNally had seven against Norfolk in 2001. Here's the list of top RBI games in recent seasons, both home and away:

9 - Dusty Wathan vs. Toledo, June 2, 2005
8 - Earl Snyder at Syracuse, June 13, 2002
7 - Ernie Young at Rochester, April 29, 2004
7 - Sean McNally vs. Norfolk, May 20, 2001
6 - Val Pascucci vs. Scranton, May 10, 2011
6 - Todd Linden at Durham, July 31, 2008
6 - Ryan Mulhern at Columbus, April 16, 2007
6 - Mike Kinkade at Syracuse,  Aug. 25, 2005
6 - Ryan Ludwick at Pawtucket, Aug. 17, 2004 (became second Bison all-time and first since 1934 to homer twice in an inning)
6 - Ryan Ludwick at Syracuse, July 23, 2004
6 - Alex Escobar at Indianapolis, May 9, 2003

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

 

Collins pens open letter to Mets fans; Wedge moving on from 2007

A few hours before tonight's season opener at Florida, the Mets have released this letter from new manager Terry Collins.  This was Collins' first spring training as a big-league manager since 1999 and all reports from Florida have been how impressive his energy has been in the face of what could be a long year for the Mets.

Collins' opening paragraph: "With our 2011 opener tonight in Florida, I want to make this pledge to Mets fans -- our team will play the game the right way." Hmmm, whether he meant it or not, that's a little bit of a veiled shot at how things looked under Jerry Manuel, isn't it?

I've known Collins for many years obviously. He believes what he says. He writes, "From Day 1 my message has been look ahead, not backward, and not to worry about what the people outside the clubhouse are saying. If we pitch and play defense like I know we can, we will surprise a lot of people, a lot of people."

The Mets certainly need to stay injury-free to have any hope and Jason Bay's early troubles don't help. But it's hard not to root for Collins this time, especially given how bad things ended for him in Anaheim.

Things ended badly for Eric Wedge in Cleveland, of course, when he was fired in 2009. But it seemed as though the Tribe never got over blowing its 3-1 lead to the Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS. Wedge starts a new run tonight in Seattle with the Mariners and this terrific Seattle Times column by Jerry Brewer fails to dent the impenetrable Wedge shell when trying to broach that topic.

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

It's Opening Day II

The season openers continue Friday with a 3:05 first pitch in sold-out Progressive Field for the Indians and White Sox and a 7:05 first pitch in the sold-out Rogers Centre for the Blue Jays and Twins and the managerial debut of ex-Bison John Farrell.

Check out the Cleveland Plain Dealer's preview section here. The Toronto Star has several stories looking ahead to the Blue Jays' season at this link

Cleveland.com will be hosting a live chat during the Indians' game. They also have a live Webcam into the Winking Lizard, a great pub on Huron Street by the ballpark that this corner has often frequented over the years. An odd little Opening Day addition (place opened at 9 a.m.!)


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The Mets, meanwhile, open the Terry Collins era tonight at Florida (7 p.m. on SNY). The Daily News' Mets section has all kinds of stories on the Amazins' season, both Madoff and non-Madoff variety. I like Andy Martino's look at how Collins and GM Sandy Alderson have quite a mess to fix. In terms of early impact on the Bisons is the fact that Jason Bay's trip to the DL means Lucas Duda has made the big club and won't take his big bat to Buffalo to start the year.

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

Great tribute to Feller in Tribe press box

Feller IWhen Indians legend Bob Feller passed away in December, several of you responded or emailed me regarding my post about listening and chatting with Feller in the press box at Progressive Field. He was a regular there and seat 84, usually 5-6 to my right from my normal spot, was his and his alone.

The Baseball Writers Association of America (I am a member of the Cleveland chapter) and the Indians agreed Feller should be honored in the press box in perpetuity and his seat will remain vacant. The Tribe is there today having a workout on the day of Feller's public memorial in Cleveland and longtime great friend of the blog Dennis Manoloff of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has tweeted some photos of the display case created to honor Feller in the press box.

Judging from the pictures, I can't wait to see this in person. Terrific job all around in honoring the greatest Indian of them all. The No. 19 patch with the trademark high leg kick, by the way, will be worn on the Tribe uniforms this year.

Feller II It's a very down time for the Indians. They're not expected to do much in the standings and the ballpark is going to be empty a lot of nights. But as someone who has covered every postseason game in Jacobs/Progressive Field history and covered every day of the Tribe's 14-year affiliation with the Bisons, I can vouch for the classy way they conduct their business almost without fail (OK, they should have never allowed our market to endure TV blackouts but that's a notable exception).

The Indians' baseball department never wanted to leave Buffalo. That was strictly a business decision with the advent of a new ballpark in the Ohio state capital in Columbus and a totally understandable one (although I got a good snicker at yesterday's Tribe-Clippers exhibition game getting snowed out there).

A night at Progressive Field is always fun. And the press box crew there features some longtime colleagues whom I respect greatly. Kudos to everyone involved in the Feller tribute.

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

RIP Rapid Robert: Cleveland loses the greatest Indian of them all

FellerCleveland Indians legend Bob Feller died Wednesday night at 92 and, while you knew that day was coming once he was put into hospice care last week, it was still a tough piece of news to digest. Feller was as sharp as ever until his health began to fail late in the season from the effects of leukemia.

Longtime Cleveland Plain Dealer Indians beat writer and good friend of the blog Paul Hoynes has this wonderful remembrance of Feller in which he says, "baseball in Cleveland will never be the same."

Baseball historians, of course, remember the greatness of the man on the mound as well as the portrait of a fiercely proud American who left in the middle of his career to fight in World War II after Pearl Harbor was attacked. His Plain Dealer obituary by Bob Dolgan is simply outstanding.

Over the final decades of his life, Feller was an amazing ambassador for the Indians and I was lucky to see him many times and talk to him a few times in the press box at Progressive Field. He would routinely walk through the right field press room of the Tribe's old spring training home in Winter Haven, Fla. -- and you were as apt to hear him talking about politics as you were about baseball. I never saw him throw his annual first pitch of spring training but I was at Chain of Lakes Park many a day when Feller would be introduced, step on the field in uniform and tip his hat to the cheering crowd before heading to a table behind the left-field corner to sign a never-ending string of autographs.

For games in Cleveland, Feller sat in seat 84 of the press box. His name was on that spot on the seating chart but there was no marker by the actual seat. Inevitably, some unsuspecting visitor would sit in the spot. I usually sit in seat 90 or 91 and most of the time, we would not tell anyone that 84 was Feller's spot. We'd let him do it. He'd walk in and you'd hear that big bellow, "WHO ARE YOU? THAT'S MY SPOT."

It would be an even better show when the Yankees were in town and one of the scores of Japanese media members would take his spot. To Feller, remember, the war never ended and Pearl Harbor was never to be forgotten. You can imagine Feller's reaction to seeing someone from Japan in his seat. Here's more from Feller on the war, courtesy of ESPN's Tim Kurkjian.

I would often listen to Feller's comments on the game, often said to no one in particular. He loved watching Grady Sizemore for one. He hated -- hated -- Pete Rose and didn't ever want him considered for the Hall of Fame. I interviewed him a couple times, including the June game this year that saw Stephen Strasburg pitch against the Indians. Feller liked what he saw from Strasburg but scoffed at the way the kid's arm has been babied and coddled through his career. He also fired this classic warning shot to Strasburg.

"If you start believing all the hype, that's the end of your career," Feller told me and two other reporters he was chatting with. "It's a different world nowadays and that's OK. It's a business, a lot of show involved. He just better not believe anything he reads about himself. Call me when he wins his first hundred [games]. He's off to a very good start but these aren't the '27 New York Yankees or the '48 Indians he's facing."

Classic Feller. Blunt and to the point. The Cleveland chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, of which I'm a member, is requesting the team keep seat 84 open in perpetuity and a plaque will likely be put there. A small gesture but a meaningful one to folks who've been at the ballpark a lot since it opened in 1994.

RIP Rapid Robert.

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

AP Photo: Feller at the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown in June.

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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