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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.

Around the horn: Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays

It's all over for the Yankees, who were lucky they weren't swept in the ALCS by the Rangers and were finally put away with Friday night's 6-1 Texas victory in Game Six.  New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said it actually felt like a six-game sweep. 

Cheap plug alert: Be sure to look for Sunday's Inside Baseball column for my thoughts on Joe Girardi. And be sure to keep tuned in to the blog starting Tuesday with my reports from the World Series.  Of course, I have no idea where I will be because the NLCS is still not decided. Game Six is tonight in Philly with Roy Oswalt looking to get the Phillies even with the Giants. And if he does that, I'm thinking Philly completes the comeback.

On the managerial front, the Blue Jays are apparently close to naming Red Sox pitching coach and former Bisons pitcher John Farrell as their new manager. Great choice to work with all their young hurlers. From my dealings with Farrell as the Indians' farm director from 2001-2006, he has a keen eye for talent and how to connect with players. I always thought he had GM stock but he wanted to get back on the field and joined Terry Francona's staff in 2007, promptly winning a World Series.

Might be a chance for old friend Torey Lovullo to get a big-league job as well. You would think Farrell would consider him for the Toronto staff from their days with Cleveland.

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

Wedge talks with Jays about Cito's job

Cito Gaston is heading into his final three home games as Blue Jays manager (he'll be honored before Wednesday's home finale against the Yankees) and talk in Toronto is starting to really turn toward his replacements.

This Toronto Sun story has lots of info, topped by the news that former Bisons/Indians manager Eric Wedge interviewed with the club last week. Wedge, who is also on the Cubs' radar, recently moved to East Aurora from Cleveland. His wife, remember, is an Alden native he met while he was managing in Buffalo. No question the Blue Jays' job would probably be at or near the top of Wedge's wish list.

Mets scout and former Arizona manager Bob Melvin has also interviewed. Toronto bench coach Nick Leyva and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg are also on the Toronto list. It would make sense for the Jays to also be interested in former Montreal third baseman Tim Wallach, now a successful Triple-A manager at Albuquerque of the Dodgers' chain.

New GM Alex Anthopoulos is from Montreal and that certainly helps Wallach. But a young GM who wants to build with young talent definitely fits Wedge's portfolio as well. That's exactly what he did in Cleveland with Mark Shapiro. I don't think the way things ended in Cleveland the last two years hurts Wedge all that much. They traded back-to-back Cy Young winners (CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee). What's a manager to do?

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

Around the horn: Wedge talks to Cubs

---Who's the first person the Cubs have interviewed on the road to finding a replacement for Lou Piniella? According to ESPNChicago.com, it's none other than former Bisons/Indians manager Eric Wedge. Cubs GM Jim Hendry was a coach at Creighton University when Wedge was an All-American catcher at fellow Missouri Valley Conference school Wichita State in the late 1980s, so there's a lot of history there. I know this is one job Wedge has had his eye on this summer if it appeared Ryne Sandberg was not a slam-dunk choice.

---Talked to International League president Randy Mobley today and he points out the league often uses fill-in umpires at first base and home plate and there's no rule limiting them to just third base. Mobley himself makes the call whether a substitute stays locked at third or can move, as Buffalo's Wally Bissett did Wednesday night. Bissett landed at first base and twice drew the Bisons' ire in the 8-3 loss to Pawtucket.

Said Mobley: "We have a few umpires that we have labeled in each city that have agreed to be available to us Within that group, there is varying degrees of experience. Based on that degree, I'll make a judgment whether they go into the rotation [to work the plate and other bases] with the other umpires."

I think the fill-ins should be kept at third during August pennant race games but Mobley countered he views it no different than a game in April. He wouldn't put a sub ump at first or behind the plate in August if he wouldn't do it in April. Fair enough. We can disagree on that point.

---Mobley points out the IL has had just 24 postponements this year, compared to 57 by Aug. 26 of 2009. The Bisons, in fact, just played their first doubleheader of the season on Sunday. Been a great weather year for the league.

---Memo to the Phillies: It's the end of August. You've been to the World Series two straight years but you're not going back if you lose four straight at home to the Astros. What's up with that?

---Memo to the Yankees: You're 5-7 against the Blue Jays. Might want to figure that one out before your seven meetings in September.

---Memo to everyone in the NL wild card race: Here come the Rockies again. Think 2007. Just sayin'.

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

Trade ends Peralta's run with Tribe

JP You can argue the best season ever put up by a Bison was Dave Clark's .340 campaign in the 1987 War Memorial Stadium swan song (.340-30-80-.621 slugging). Or maybe Al Martin's 1992 season (.305, 16 doubles, 15 triples, 20 homers, 20 steals). I'll take Jhonny Peralta's 2004 campaign over both of them.

Peralta was the International MVP six years ago for the champion Bisons, batting .326 with modern-era records of 181 hits and 44 doubles. He also had 15 homers, 86 RBIs and played decent shortstop. He was Buffalo's first MVP since 1961 and graduated to Cleveland, where he's been a starter at short and third for five straight seasons.

That run ended Wednesday night, when Peralta was traded to the Detroit Tigers. Peralta has three 20-homer seasons and three seasons of at least 78 RBIs in Cleveland but never really endeared himself to Tribe fans. The soft-spoken Dominican was average defensively at best and was a lightning rod for criticism because of some lax play at the field and at that plate, where he's having his worst year (.246-7-43). Still, he was 7 for 15 in the 2007 division series against the Yankees and homered twice against the Red Sox in the ALCS.

He's owed a $7.25 million option after this year so he's clearly a rental for the injury-riddled and reeling Tigers, who need infield help. Peralta, who is making $4.6 million, will have to pick things up the next two months if he wants to keep earning real money next year.

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

(Photo: Associated Press)

More on the Duke of Buffalo

Duke-Bob Radio/TV analyst and former PA announcer Duke McGuire is one of the true characters of Bisons baseball and he's getting inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. Richly deserved. Be sure to read our story in Thursday's paper about McGuire's long career in the game -- and his huge role in getting "The Natural" filmed in Buffalo as well as playing a member of the New York Knights alongside Robert Redford (that's McGuire with Redford in 1930s baseball duds)

A long career can produce a long story and you can never have enough space to tell all the tales about this true Buffalo original. Rather than lose so much of these anecdotes in the story, I collected thoughts about Duke here from his three broadcast partners over the years. 

Pete Weber (TV, 1990-95, currently with NHL's Nashville Predators)

On his broadcast style: "Because he has lived through the situations, he's very good at keeping things simple and explaining what could be complex. He never makes you feel like that football coach mentality of, 'You couldn't possibly absorb the info I'm about to impart to you here.' He's a teacher. He's used that in broadcasting and made it fun.

On a bizarre moment at the mic: "He uttered one of the funniest impromptu PA announcements I've heard in my life. He was announcing the license tag of a car needing to be moved [outside War Memorial Stadium] and as he's in the middle of the number, an M-80 or cherry bomb goes off on Dodge Street outside. Duke just keeps reading and when he finished the number he simply said, 'Your car has just blown up.' That dispays how quickly he could adapt to a situation."

On the Hall of Fame induction: "My mindset is we're not giving him a gold watch. This is somebody who has served so well in so many capacities with the team and is being properly honored."

Jim Rosenhaus (radio 1996-2006, currently with Cleveland Indians)

On his broadcast style: "He didn't take the game too seriously. He realized it was fun. The game was fun. When we had big games, it was a big deal but he would see the fun side of the game. He wanted to see the game played right. As a former player, he knew good and bad baseball. His persepectives gave him credibility too. I've seen a lot of baseball but he played it. He knew what guys were going through, especially as a former minor leaguer. He knew the challenges and that type of thing. He had a good perspective on the big club taking out five guys.

A bizarre moment: "WGR used a promo and it was a replay of a foul ball one night in Buffalo that hit [mascot] Chip in the head. I'm calling the play and before I even finished saying what was going on, Duke just blurts out, "Chip is down! Chip is down!" He made it sound like Ali-Frazier. They would play that all the time and it was hysterical."

On the Hall of Fame: "This is awesome for Duke. He would miss some road trips early in the season when school was still going on and to some extent for me, it never felt like baseball season till Duke went on the road."

Duke-BenBen Wagner (Radio/TV, 2007-present)

On his broadcast style: "He sees things on the field before they happen and that helps the listeners. That can come out at any time, early or late in the game. He uses it as a tool to teach through our broadcasts as well, which I really appreciate. He helps the broadcast flow. He can move from the first inning and relate it back. He's been a player, a manager, worked in the front office. It makes a big difference."

On his wackiness in the booth: "I have to be alert at all times with Duke. From the "celebrity guest appearance" to the drop of something by 'The K-Man' in the stands. Duke is worrying about the ball -- and about the guy spilling a drop or two too."

On McGuire becoming a Hall of Famer: "I knew from the very beginning he was more of a connection to a fans that anybody I would ever have with me on the air. He's the connection to the current team and the years past. He's been the greatest resource to me in trying to learn Bisons history through regular conversation. It's not just players either. The Butcher came in and we started talking about him and that led to other cast of characters he had seen.

"He has longevity of the history but also the connection to all the loyal listeners out there. I've tried to use that to my advantage. It's huge for me to be able to connect to the history of this team through him."

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

Photo: McGuire and Wagner earlier this month at Coca-Cola Field -- James P. McCoy/Buffalo News

Live from Strasburgs vs. Tribe

Stras CLEVELAND -- We're live from the press box at Progressive Field as the Washington Strasburgs, er, Nationals take on the Indians in the second big-league start for the game's newest phenom. How many strikeouts will he get? How many hits or runs can the Tribe scratch out? It's going to be interesting.

Stephen Strasburg, for his part, was taking a snooze on the leather couch in the middle of the Nationals' clubhouse when I checked in there around 10:45 this morning. Some TVs had a World Cup game on and others had a replay of a college Super Regional. Nothing fazed him. He was out.

Manager Jim Riggelman dealt with plenty of media in his office for his postgame chat and marveled at how TBS has the Nationals-Indians on today and booted off Red Sox-Phillies. The Indians are expecting a crowd of over 30,000 (they've sold around 10,000 tickets since Tuesday) and there's a few dozen extra media in the press box. All for one player.

"I haven't seen anything like this," Riggelman said. "Maybe they did this with [Sandy] Koufax and some others. I know Texas jumped up in attendance with Nolan Ryan pitching at home because I think people thought every time, "Hey, this might be the next no-hitter." But the national attention certainly has never been like this."

The game is on TBS (hold your breath on that "local" blackout back home). Those in the house today include ESPN, the MLB Network, CBSSports.com, NBCSports.com, USA Today, AOL Fanhouse and Baseball Prospectus. In terms of sports stories these days, there's the World Cup, the NBA finals and Strasburg. Heady stuff.

In addition to starting pitcher David Huff, there are five ex-Bisons in the Cleveland lineup to face Strasburg. It looks like this:

Trevor Crowe, cf
Shin-Soo Choo, rf
Carlos Santana, c
Travis Hafner, dh
Austin Kearns, lf
Russell Branyan, 1b
Jhonny Peralta, 3b
Luis Valbuena, 2b
Anderson Hernandez, ss

Keep it here for live updates on Strasburg's outing. Our live blog from his June 3 start in Buffalo was our best day ever at Inside Pitch. So we like the Strasburg Effect too.

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

Mid-1st: Here we go. It's a breezy, cloudy 72-degree day. The Nationals went down 1-2-3 in the first off Huff. The crowd is a disappointment in most places but a victory in Cleveland. Most of the lower level is full. Much of the deep RF upper deck is empty. Applause greets Strasburg as he takes the mound for warmups. He's been told to wait a few seconds before coming out and to slow his warmups because of the national TV broadcast. Dude likes to get it and throw.

End-1st: What a show. A 1-2-3 inning for Strasburg on two strikeouts and a liner to left. He threw 15 pitches, 10 for strikes -- four hit 100 mph on the ballpark radar gun and four others hit 99. Strasburg got Crowe swinging on a 100-mph job, burned Choo on an unhittable sinking fastball at 99 and then retired Santana on a scorcher to left that ended his streak of nine straight strikeouts -- one shy of the big-league mark held by Tom Seaver and Eric Gagne. The place was buzzing with every reading on the gun and there was applause every time it hit 100. Wow. 

Bot-2nd: The Nats scored in the top of the 2nd and the Tribe ties it as Hafner belts the second pitch he sees -- a 100-mph heater -- just over the wall in right to tie it at 1-1. (ESPN.com legend Jayson Stark notes that Strasburg gave up one HR to 210 minor-league batters and has given up two in nine innings in the big leagues). Strasburg recovers to get Kearns on a fly to right and fans Branyan and Peralta back-to-back. Four more at 99 that inning, two more at 100. Totals through 2: 2-1-1-1-0-4/30-20

End-3rd: An eight-pitch inning and three groundouts. One pitch at 100, one at 99. The score remains 1-1. That's how Strasburg can economize to last longer in games. Totals through 3: 3-1-1-1-0-4/38-25.

End-4th: An Adam Dunn HR puts the Nats up, 2-1. Strasburg survives a tricky inning unscathed, striking out the side around the first two walks of his big-league career. They came on 3-2 pitches to Santana and Hafner, which prompted a mound visit from Pudge. Message sent as Kearns and Branyan went down swinging. Strasburg had gone 10 1/3 innings and 36 batters in the big leagues before the Santana walk -- his first since giving a free pass to Bisons pitcher Dillon Gee on June 3. That was a 24-pitch inning. Totals through 4: 4-1-1-1-2-7/63-39. A note from ESPN.com -- No pitcher in the expansion era has opened his career with back-to-back 10+/whiff games. Strasburg is three away. Sick.

End-5th: Strasburg holds his 2-1 lead and has pitched five innings of one-hit ball. He struck out Peralta, got Valbuena on a pop-up to short, walked Hernandez and got a big assist from 3B Alberto Gonzalez to get the final out on a Crowe bunt. Totals through 5: 5-1-1-1-3-8/79-47. Thinking one more inning?

In other news, Ketchup nosed out Mustard in a photo finish in the daily hot dog race. Onion a distant third.

Top-6th: The Nats have Strasburg in position for his second win with a four-run rally after two out to take a 6-1 lead. Pudge got the key hit, a two-run double to left-center on Huff's first pitch. After a walk to Mike Morse, Frank Herrmann replaced Huff. This has been a long break for Strasburg. Almost certainly means last inning for him. Ian Desmond followed with a two-run 3B off the glove of Crowe in center, who took a terrible angle and had a bad jump. Grady Sizemore makes that play easily. Five-run lead should be plenty for the phenom.

Bot-6th..Strasburg is gone: Santana led off with a broken-bat single to right for the second hit off Strasburg. Fellow first-rounder Drew Storen up in the bullpen. Strasburg then started having a terrible time with the mound, specifically his landing area. Looked like it got inside his head. The grounds crew came out to tend to it and Riggelman was not happy about the situation. Walks to Hafner and Kearns ended Strasburg's day. As he walked to the dugout, he got loud boos from the Cleveland crowd -- which is patently ridiculous -- and a standing ovation from some behind the dugout. You boo the guy because the mound is bad? Bitter people here. Storen to face Branyan with bases loaded and Strasburg's line open.

Storen finds the mound to his liking getting Branyan on a popup and fanning Peralta. So Strasburg's final line reads like this: 5 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K. 95 pitches, 52 strikes. 

Strasburg's two big-league outings: 12 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 22 Ks, 5 BBs, 2.19 ERA

Bot-8th: The  Nats have broken it open and lead 9-1. I was just in a group of 3 reporters talking to HOF Bob Feller,  who is a regular in seat 84 of the press box (I'm in seat 93 today). Be sure to check out the story in Monday's print edition. Feller did tell me,"He's got a very good reportoire" when asked about Strasburg's outing. And he cautioned, "He's off to a very good start but these aren't the '27 New York Yankees or the '48 Indians he's facing." Doh! 

Off to the clubhouse:  It took nearly 3 1/2 hours and Strasburg officially improves to 2-0 as Nationals win it, 9-4. Tribe rallied for three in the ninth.

(Photo: Associated Press)

On the road with Strasburg

CLEVELAND -- I'm on the way to Progressive Field to see the second big-league start of Stephen Strasburg's career. We'll have a full live blog here to keep you updated after things get underway around 1:05 (this post appears courtesy of our favorite tool, the advanced timer). The game has been added to the TBS schedule -- the network pushed off Red Sox-Phillies for Indians-Nationals!! -- but I harbor no guarantees it will be on in Buffalo.

Local blackouts are supposed to apply and that's usually trouble when it concerns the Indians. But non-DirecTV folks note that Tuesday's first Strasburg start against the Pirates was shown on MLB Network and there were blackout concerns about the Bucs on that one as well. 

Strasburg, of course, has completely blown up in the wake of his 14-strikeout performance Tuesday against the Pirates. The Tribe should double its average crowd today by drawing in the 35,000 range. Comment was sought from experts and experienced eyes everywhere. MLB.com caught up with Indians Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who is a press box regular and should be in the house watching today. 

Strasburg even read the Top Ten list on the Letterman show Thursday night. Jeez. And it's pretty darn funny too. Check it out below. And be sure to come back from today's live report from the latest Strasburgfest!

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


Around the horn: Full moon edition

What in the world was in the water Saturday? We had sheer craziness around the big leagues. Check it out.

1). The Indians roared back from a pair of six-run deficits to beat the Yankees, 13-11, in a  game marked by a scary scene as Cleveland pitcher and ex-Bison David Huff took an Alex Rodriguez line drive off the head. The ball ricocheted into right field as a horrified stadium full of fans watched. Huff was driven off in a cart to a hospital and actually returned to the park after the game following a negative CT-scan. Amazing.

Late Saturday night  on his Twitter page, Huff thanked the teams' training staffs and doctors, the Yankees' security staff even A-Rod for calling.

2). Kendry Morales of the Angels broke his leg. That can happen. But while jumping on home plate following a walkoff grand slam?  This Orange County Register column points out how the Angels will celebrate differently from now on.   In the Los Angeles Times, there's plenty of stark quotes from Angels players but the picture of Morales holding his head says as much as any of them.  

3). Then we moved to night. While most everyone in Philadelphia was watching the Flyers game, Roy Halladay was working on history of his own. By the ninth inning,the TVs in the bars were being switched in time to see him complete the 20th perfect game in history, a 1-0 win over the Marlins. Here's MLB.com's recap. It's the first time since 1880 we've had two perfectos in the same season. Yes, 1880. One of them that year by Providence's John Ward was against the Buffalo Bisons!

Great story from the Philly Inquirer about the postgame clubhouse scene.  

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

More from Wedge on '07 ALCS

Be sure to check out my conversation with former Bisons and Indians manager Eric Wedge in Sunday's Inside Baseball column. Wedge talks about his time in Cleveland, his move to a new home in East Aurora, how he's refocusing his energy on finding a job for 2011 and on a charity golf tournament he's running with his wife June 5 in Akron in honor of his late mother in law. The web site for that event, the Carol K Golf Classic, is here.  

One thing that didn't make the column was some extra Wedge thoughts on the 2007 ALCS, the series the Tribe had a 3-1 lead but lost the last three games against the Red Sox. It was the first time television inserted a day off without travel and it came between Games Four and Five, after Cleveland's 7-3 win gave it a stranglehold on the series.

But the Tribe seemed to lose its momentum and the Red Sox seemed to regroup. I've always felt Cleveland wins that series if Game Five is planned the next day.

"We had young players, guys who were inexperienced in that situation and it might have played into it," Wedge said when I told him my theory. "You're rolling but now you had time to think about it, time to watch TV, read the paper, talk to family. You try to get into a zone and stay there and maybe teams that had been there before can do a better job. You can't say that was a determining factor because we had chances the whole series."

True. CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combined to go 0-3. Joel Skinner's fateful stop sign of Kenny Lofton in Game Seven didn't help either. The Red Sox outscored Cleveland, 30-5, in the final three games.

It's the closest any team with that many Buffalo connections will ever get to the World Series. Think of all the players on the team. Then there was Wedge, pitching coach Carl Willis, former Buffalo managers Skinner and Jeff Datz. Even trainer Rick Jameyson and broadcaster Jim Rosenhaus, in his first year in the bigs. It was a great run to cover, from a Division Series-clinching party in the clubhouse at old Yankee Stadium to some thrilling ALCS games in Cleveland and Fenway. Too bad it ended a game short of the Series.

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



Catching up with Eric Wedge

Wedge Be sure to check out my Inside Baseball column in Sunday's editions as I'll be featuring former Bisons and Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge. After leading the Tribe for seven years -- and getting them within one win of the World Series in 2007 -- Wedge was let go following last season and is spending this year with his wife and two children to recharge his batteries and get ready to look for a new post in 2011.

Wedge's wife, Kate, is an Alden native and they are planning to move from their home in suburban Cleveland and settle in East Aurora. One of their pursuits this summer is a golf tournament to honor Kate's late mother, Carol Kulniszewski, who died last summer of Multiple Myeloma.

The inaugural Carol K Golf Classic will be held June 5 at Rothland Golf Course in Akron. It will feature 18 holes of golf and a silent auction of memorabilia with some items from the likes of Garth Brooks, John Daly, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Joe Girardi and members of the Bills, Sabres and Indians. Non-golfers can take part in a wine tasting tour of six Niagara County wineries. A dinner will follow both events and Wedge will be the guest speaker.

Registration begins at noon with a shotgun start at 1. Individuals are $85 and foursomes are $325. Wine tours are $85. Full information and registration info is available at the event's official Web site, Carolkgolfclassic.com.

Wedge also had a great run with the Bisons in 2001 and 2002, earning back-to-back playoff berths and posting a 91-win campaign in '01 that was the Herd's best since 1936. He's going to be back on a major-league bench in some capacity next season. Be sure to check out his thoughts in Sunday's paper.

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

(AP File Photo: Wedge meets the media during the 2007 ALCS against Boston)

Ex-Bison Roberts, Sox '04 hero, stricken with lymphoma

Some sobering news out of San Diego today as Dave Roberts, the Bisons' modern-era stolen base leader and the man whose theft of second base in 2004 changed the course of Red Sox history, has been undergoing treatment for lymphoma.

According to the Associated Press story linked above, Roberts was diagnosed in mid-March and has a good prognosis after two rounds of chemotherpay. He is currently working for the Padres as a special assistant after spending last season in the Red Sox broadcast booth.

Roberts never needs a reservation in any Boston restaurant after stealing second in the bottom of the ninth off Mariano Rivera and scoring the tying run in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS. That allowed the Red Sox to stave off elimination and eventually win that game in extra innings -- starting an eight-game winning streak that culminated in Boston's first World Series title in 86 years.

Roberts was called up to the Bisons late in the 1998 season and played parts of four years with the Herd. He had back-to-back 39-steal seasons for Buffalo in 1999 and 2000, and batted .303 for the Bisons in 2001. He has 97 stolen bases for the Bisons -- 30 more than any player.

Roberts is one of the great guys in the game. It was great to see him get all the accolades he got in '04 and he handled the attention with the same kind of grace he showed when he worked in relative anonymity in Buffalo.

UPDATE: In a conference call this evening with San Diego and Boston reporters, Roberts said "My spirits continue to be high and I expect to beat this fully."

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

Openers for Bisons: Get over .500 for once!

It's Opening Day for the Bisons tonight in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and a win would put them over .500 for the first time in more than two years!

Yep, a 1-0 record for the Herd would be on the good side of .500 for the first time since they were 3-2 on April 7, 2008. The Bisons fell below .500 two days later and finished the '08 season 66-77. And don't even get me started about last year. Hey, manager Ken Oberkfell told us Tuesday in our season preview story that he's already forgotten about 2009. We'll see.

All the losing has been an odd feeling the last two years for a franchise that went to the playoffs nine times in 11 years from 1995-2005. There's been no playoffs since and a lot of losing the last two years that the parent Mets are hoping to turn around.

In case you missed it, here's a preview of the 2010 IL season. Once things open at home next Wednesday against Pawtucket, the Bisons promise you'll have better luck at the concession stands.

Amazing how many emails I got on that topic last season. More than about bad baseball. I renew my advice to those working behind the stands -- stop standing around chatting and get a move-on! We'll see if the team gave them similar instructions.

Down in Scranton, Donnie Colllins of the Times-Tribune has a look at catcher Jesus Montero. He's the top Yankes' prospect and the heir apparent to Jorge Posada.

As it hits year 22, Scranton's PNC Field is getting a lot of badly-needed attention. The place has been falling apart and needs a major renovation or needs to be replaced. They haven't nearly kept it up like Buffalo has done with Coca-Cola Field.

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

The Russ Bus returns to Cleveland

One of the more intriguing stories for Bisons fans to watch this season with their former parent is the return of slugger Russell Branyan to Cleveland. He's 34 now and long past his prospect days but he's also coming off his best big-league season -- 31 homers and 76 RBIs for the Mariners last year -- before a bad back saddled him for the final month.

Since he was traded by the Indians to the Reds in 2002, Branyan has really bounced around. He's been with six other teams after the Reds and even returned to Cleveland two other times -- slugging 25 home runs for the Bisons in 2004 and appearing in one game for the Herd in 2007. His 76 home runs in Buffalo are two shy of Jeff Manto's modern-era franchise record.

Can Branyan stay healthy this year and put up the kind of numbers the Indians saw last year in Seattle? Can he pick up the slack if Travis Hafner has yet another brutal season? Should be interesting. Here's some video of Branyan's press conference with Cleveland reporters a few days ago at the Tribe's spring camp in Goodyear, Ariz. (He gives it up to the '04 Bisons at the one-minute mark)

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

More from Manto

Manto clinic Be sure to check out today's Monday Extra feature catching up with ex-Bisons great Jeff Manto, who is in the coaching world now for both youths and minor leaguers (with the Chicago White Sox). Wanted to give Web readers the chance to see some great Manto quotes from his recent hitting clinic in Coca-Cola Field that were in a graphic in our print edition. They make great sense. Check 'em out.

Look like the (MLB) logo when you hit.
Finish the swing.
Better footwork helps the head and hands.
You need a baseline to hit before you get a style.
Check your feet after every pitch. They matter.
Refuse to strike out.
Never relax. Concentrate more.
You're only responsible for giving yourself a chance to get a hit, not to get the hit.
We're all pitchable to.
How would you tell someone to hit? Hit the way you would teach.
Figure it out. Don't use a crutch. It's not the coach or the umpire.
Hit the inside part of the ball every chance you get.
How come we buy a $300 bat and a $50 glove? Because we want to hit.
You've got to be nuts about hitting, crazed about it. Hitting has got to matter.
Don't think. Stay with your strength or you'll think yourself right back to the dugout.

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

Photo: Harry Scull/Buffalo News

Torey talk in Pawtucket

While the Bisons were greeting the return of one Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer last week in former manager and new Mets executive Terry Collins, another one was getting his official introduction in Pawtucket.

Former Bisons infielder and skipper Torey Lovullo, who managed last year in Columbus, was unveiled to the media at McCoy Stadium as the replacement for the popular Ron Johnson after the longtime skipper everyone calls "RJ" got promoted to Terry Francona's staff in Boston. Lovullo certainly has the seal of approval from Francona, his final big-league manager in 1999 in Philadelphia.

Check out this video of Lovullo getting his Red Sox jersey from Providence affiliate WNLE.


---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

In and out of the Tribe chain

Here's what I think is the latest scorecard of Buffalo-connected managers/coaches going in and out of the Indians organization:

Eric Wedge -- fired in Cleveland, passed over for Mets bench coach (Dave Jauss hired)

Carl Willis -- fired in Cleveland, hired as Seattle's minor-league pitching coordinator

Jeff Datz -- fired in Cleveland, hired as Baltimore's bench coach

Joel Skinner -- fired in Cleveland, passed over to become Tribe's Triple-A manager at Columbus (Double-A Akron manager Mike Sarbaugh promoted Tuesday)

Torey Lovullo -- passed over for Tribe manager (Manny Acta hired), hired as Boston's Triple-A manager at Pawtucket

Scott Radinsky -- promoted from Triple-A Columbus pitching coach to Cleveland bullpen coach

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Alex Ramirez named MVP in Japan

Here's a blast from the past: Former Bisons star Alex Ramirez was named MVP of the Japanese League for the second straight year on Wednesday. Now 35, Ramirez led the Yomiuri Giants to their first Japan Series title by leading the league with a .322 average, 31 homers and 103 RBIs. He has become an icon during his nine-year career in Japan

The 35-year-old Ramirez hit .322 in helping the Yomiuri Giants to their first Japan Series championship since 2002. He had 31 homers and drove in 103 runs in 144 games this season, his ninth in Japan. He's the fastest American in history with 1,500 hits in Japan and he has 287 career home runs

"A-Ram" as he was known here, played in Buffalo from 1997-99 and was a key member of Buffalo's 1998 International League champions . He hit .299 with 34 home runs and 103 RBIs that season to earn the club's most valuable player award. His home run and RBI totals, and his 28-game hitting streak still stand as modern-era records for the Bisons.

Check out Ramirez's official Web site (you can click on the Japanese tab for the Japanese version if you so choose). Here's his year-by-year stats in Japan

Here's a story on Ramirez that ran during the Japan Series.

---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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