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After a week of play, it's the first fridaynightbash! for good-looking Herd in game two vs. PawSox

By Mike Harrington

We've gone through the first week of the International League season and the Buffalo Bisons have dodged three rainouts to post a 4-2 record heading into tonight's 6:05 game in Coca-Cola Field against the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Some quick numbers on the Herd thus far:

Batting: .240 (believe it or not, 7th in the 14-team IL)
Runs: 30 (T-6th)
Runs per game: 5.0 (5th)
ERA: 3.00 (2nd)

The Bisons have scored a lot early (seven runs in first innings, their highest total) and have scored a lot late (five runs in the eighth, four in two extra-inning wins). Their batters have been selective, walking 29 times in six games, while the pitchers have a 2-1 strikeout-walk ratio (54-27 in 57 innings).

Among individuals:
---Anthony Gose has hit in all five starts, posting a .423 on-base percentage to go with a .286 average.
---Newly acquired Juan Francisco leads the team in batting (.429), on-base (.478), slugging (.714) and OPS (1.193). Dan Johnson is second (.300/.464/1.114) and Johnson and Francisco have split the team's four home runs.
----In need of a quick breakout: Kevin Pillar is 2 for 25 and Mike Nickeas is 1 for 16.
----Reliever Bobby Korecky is one of four IL pitchers with two wins, and both Korecky and Chad Jenkins have six scoreless innings out of the bullpen thus far.

Kyle Drabek will make his second start of the season tonight against Pawtucket's Jeremy Kehrt. The Bisons (4-2), Rochester (4-2) and Pawtucket (5-3) are tied top the IL North thus far.

Elsewhere in the IL, it's a big night tonight in Charlotte as the Knights officially move downtown to BB&T Ballpark with  7:05 game against Norfolk. Props to the folks down there for getting that project done and here's hoping they remember April 11, 2014 as fondly as we recall April 14, 1988.

The Bisons' lineup tonight:

Anthony Gose,  cf
Steve Tolleson,  2b
Juan Francisco, 3b
Dan Johnson, 1b
Matt Tuiasosopo, lf
Kevin Pillar, rf
Andy LaRoche, dh
Mike Nickeas,  c
Munenori Kawasaki,  ss
----
Kyle Drabek, p

Farewell, winter: Bisons announcer takes to the air with great audio montage

By Mike Harrington

So are you ready for Opening Day? Bisons radio/TV man Ben Wagner sure is. Here's how Wagner opened things on the air today, with the sounds of one harsh winter giving way -- finally -- to the sounds of spring and summer.

Great stuff.

Ben Wagner kicks off the 2014 season.

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.

Peace Bridge to light up in honor of Bisons' opener, now just a week away at Coca-Cola Field

By Mike Harrington

We're exactly one week away from the Buffalo Bisons' home and season opener in Coca-Cola Field, the April 3 matchup with the Rochester Red Wings that is scheduled for a 2:05 first pitch.

The team seems to be getting a break on the weather. The long-range forecast looks palatable for the opener, with a high of 48 currently listed for next Thursday and only a 30 percent chance of rain. 

The team's equipment truck is scheduled to arrive from the Blue Jays' spring home in Dunedin, Fla., on Monday and the first workout in Buffalo under new manager Gary Allenson is Tuesday afternoon. The team will also workout Wednesday afternoon. The sessions are not open to the public.

Starting Wednesday night at 9 p.m. and stretching until Thursday morning at 1 a.m, the Peace Bridge will be illuminated to celebrate the return of baseball to the region and the binational partnership between the Bisons and Blue Jays. The lights will alternate between Bisons red and Blue Jays blue.

This is the second straight year the Peace Bridge has been lit in support of the Bisons/Blue Jays partnership. The Peace Bridge Authority and Bisons will once again work together on a number of promotional and marketing ventures to promote cross-border travel to Coca-Cola Field.

Bisons' rotation taking shape as Blue Jays make some minor-league assignments

By Mike Harrington

The Buffalo Bisons' strength out of the gate in 2014 is going to be the starting rotation and that's an easy call for any modest observer of the Toronto Blue Jays' system. Things started to crystallize Sunday as the Jays sent lefty Sean Nolin and righties Kyle Drabek and Chad Jenkins to their minor-league camp to get them ready to open the season with the Herd.

Nolin, 24, spent most of last season with Double-A New Hampshire and was 8-3, 3.01 in 17 starts while pitching for new Bisons manager Gary Allenson. Nolin was named an Eastern League mid-season all-star and earned an August promotion to the Bisons (1-1, 1.53 in three starts).

Drabek, 26, spent 2013 on the mend from Tommy John surgery that he had in 2012. He reached Buffalo in mid-August and 1-2, 3.77 in four games (three starts).  Drabek was then promoted to the Blue Jays,  where he allowed two runs in three relief appearances. Drabek was 4-7, 4.67 in 13 starts for the Blue Jays in 2012 before suffering his elbow injury during a June start against Washington.

Jenkins, 26, pitched for New Hampshire, Toronto and the Bisons last season. He was 1-0, 2.70 in 33.1 innings for the Blue Jays while going 0-3, 7.48 in five June starts for Buffalo. 

The biggest prize awaiting the Bisons is top Toronto prospect Marcus Stroman, the Jays' No. 1 pick in 2012. He remains in big-league camp fighting for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Stroman went 9-5, 3.30 in 20 starts last year at New Hampshire. 

The Bisons will likely have their first workout in Buffalo on April 1. The home and season opener is April 3 at 2:05 against Rochester in Coca-Cola Field.

Brown on leaving Bisons: Farrell connection hurt him in Jays' eyes

By Mike Harrington

Off my vacation perch, I caught up with now ex-Bisons manager Marty Brown early this evening as he was wrapping up some Christmas shopping at home in Missouri. Brown told the Toronto Blue Jays late last week he would not be returning to Buffalo in 2014 and it's certainly no reflection of our fair city or the Bisons.

Brown said that he felt his connection to former Toronto manager John Farrell didn't help his standing in the Jays' organization. Farrell, of course, left the Jays in 2012 on pretty bad terms to take over in Boston. (If you need to know the rest of the story, this probably isn't the blog for you)

"My own opinion is that I knew John from Cleveland and he called me for this job when we were in Las Vegas and then he didn't leave on the greatest of terms," Brown said. "People have affiliated me with John and i think it's kind of hurt me in this organization. I don't have any big affiliation with John. I didn't go to Boston. I tried to do my job and do the best job I could. Toronto never had anything really bad to say to me. I just don't know if there was a huge trust factor and it's best for them to get somebody in there they like."

What Brown essentially told me is if the Blue Jays aren't going to give him a real chance in the major leagues, it was just time to move on and try something else. Translation: Toronto hired ex-Bison Tim Leiper to be its new first base coach, giving Brown what amounted to a perfunctory interview for the job. And that was a final straw.

"They knew who they wanted to hire and that's fine," Brown said. "It makes me feel more in terms of being a manager, is this worth my time and effort to keep doing what i'm doing? A part of you feels like I'm kicking myself in my head. And not just with the Blue Jays. I wasn't getting any interviews from other guys either.

"You try to evaluate yourself and where you're at and what you're doing....I just thought maybe I would step away for a while and see if I can do something else."

Brown isn't ruling out another Triple-A managerial job for next year. Nor is he ruling out a return to manage in Japan, where he managed from 2006-2010 and met his wife. He said scouting might also be another option.

Who might the Bisons suggest to the Blue Jays? I'll have some ideas in my story in Tuesday's editions of The News.

Blue Jays sign former IL MVP Johnson to minor-league deal

By Mike Harrington

A big potential signing for the Bisons today as the Toronto Blue Jays announced they have signed veteran first baseman Dan Johnson to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League spring training.

Johnson, 34, spent most of last season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before finishing the year with five games for the Norfolk Tides. Combined, the left-handed slugger hit .250 with 26 doubles, 21 home runs and 70 RBI in 138 games. He also led the league with 96 walks (to only 85 strikeouts).

Johnson has been one of the top sluggers in the International League since 2008 with four teams. He was the IL MVP for Durham in 2010 after hitting .303 and leading the league with 31 home runs, a .430 on-base pct. and a .624 slugging pct. in 98 games.

Johnson has finished in the Top 10 in home runs in the IL four times since 2008, leading the league in 2012 with 28 for Charlotte. He was an IL all-star in 2010 and won the league’s Home Run Derby. He also played in the 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game at Coca-Cola Field (for Charlotte) and finished second in the Home Run Derby behind Bisons slugger Valentino Pascucci.

In his eight-year Major League career, Johnson has played in 416 combined games with Oakland, Tampa Bay, the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore. He has hit .236 with 59 doubles, 56 home runs and 194 RBI for his big league career.

Johnson is best known for the video at the top of this post -- a dramatic bottom of the ninth, two-out, two-strike home run for Tampa Bay on the last day of the 2011 season. It forged a 7-7 tie with the Yankees in a game the Rays would win in the 11th and helped them nose out Boston for the AL wild-card. 

Twenty years ago tonight, Joe Carter touched 'em all for Jays

The famous call of Hall of Fame Blue Jays radio voice Tom Cheek and the call of CBS' Sean McDonough.

By Mike Harrington

BOSTON -- Weren't we supposed to be in the Rogers Centre tonight? That was the talk all winter. The Toronto Blue Jays were finally going to become relevant again, just as they joined up with the Bisons on a new affiliation.

Remember that lengthy cover story in March to our MLB preview section with the incredible cartoon on the cover? I went to Jays spring training in Florida and optimism was everywhere, even so much as R.A. Dickey telling me, "It’s great to have depth throughout the organization. I can guarantee you we’re not going to win a World Series without being able to call Buffalo and have people from Triple-A able to help. It just doesn’t work. They’re going to be vital to our chances this year."

It all went awry, of course. The Blue Jays finished last in the AL East when many people picked them to win it. The Red Sox finished first when many people picked them to finish last. They're hosting Game One of the World Series tonight at Fenway against the Cardinals.

So the Jays' drought continues. And it dates to 20 years ago tonight -- Oct. 23, 1993 -- when Joe Carter hit just the second walkoff home run to end a Series in the history of the Fall Classic to beat Mitch Williams and the Phillies in Game Six at the then-Skydome. The Jays haven't played a single postseason inning since.

Carter nearly left Toronto in free agency after the '92 title and returned home to play for the Royals, as this Kansas City Star column reprinted in today's Toronto Star reveals. Wow. Never heard that story. 

Gregor Chisolm of MLB.com has this retrospective with Carter.

Sportsnet has a great collection of memories from lots of the folks involved.

Scott MacArthur of TSN was in the stands that night as a 14-year-old and provided his personal memories. I will remind him when I see him here tonight that he should have kept his braces on.

And what about Williams, the Phillies' "Wild Thing?" He answered wave after wave of questions that night and our own Jerry Sullivan gave us his tale in this look from the archives

Bisons extend radio deal with ESPN1520

By Mike Harrington

BOSTON --  The Buffalo Bisons have announced a three-year extension of their radio contract with newly-named ESPN1520, the former WWKB. It runs through the 2016 season. The 50,000-watt station, which has a strong reach up and down the Eastern seaboard, has been the home of the Herd since 2008 and was rebranded in September as an ESPN affiliate.

The partnership will include all 144 regular season Bisons’ games, the broadcast of the annual Triple-A All Star Game (next year’s game is on July 16 in Durham), all Bisons’ postseason games and the Triple-A National Baseball Championship Game. 

The Bisons open 2014, their second season as a Toronto affiliate, on Thursday, April 3 against Rochester in Coca-Cola Field at 2:05 p.m.

Let Romero call it a season and other thoughts on the Bisons' finale today in Syracuse

RickyBy Mike Harrington

Ricky Romero's final outing for the Bisons was a pretty decent one Sunday night in a 5-4 win at Syracuse, and the Toronto Blue Jays should let him feel good about how things ended for him and let him call it a season.

Romero (left) hasn't pitched nearly good enough to go to the big leagues in September and why let him get boxed around and go into winter with a bad feeling?

Romero made 22 starts for the Bisons, posting a 5-8 record with a 5.78 earned run average. Yuk. Here's the rest of his numbers:

IP: 113.2
H: 136
R/ER: 81/73
BB: 63
K: 81
HR: 11
Opponents BA: .303
Total pitches: 1,897
Strikes: 1,110
Strike percentage: 58.5

Do those numbers strike you as a guy remotely ready for another try in MLB? No.

Some other storylines for today's 2 p.m. finale in Syracuse:

---Last night's win improved Buffalo's record to 73-70, so the Bisons are ensured of their first winning season since 2010 and just their second in the last six years.

---Bisons MVP Mauro Gomez and Syracuse's Zach Walters are tied for the IL home run lead with 29. Here's a good story from today's Syracuse Post-Standard on some funny byplay between the two Sunday night.

---Hard to believe what happened to Jim Negrych's season. He batted .313 prior to the all-star break -- and is at .206 since returning from Reno. He hit .185 in July and .195 in August before going 2 for 3 Sunday night.

---Norfolk has already started its noon final vs. Durham and can clinch the IL wild-card with a win. Rochester needs a Tides loss and then a win in its finale over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to sneak in. The wild-card winner plays Pawtucket in the first round of the Governors' Cup semifinals, opening Wednesday night. Durham and Indianapolis meet in the other semi.

(Romero photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Go to the video: Pillar's bizarre first MLB HR, Goins' first hit

By Mike Harrington

Lots of nice help for the Blue Jays coming from the Bisons in recent days, as Ryan Goins, Kevin Pillar, Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra have all helped the big club.

For Sunday's Inside Baseball column, I talked to Pillar and Goins about their MLB debuts and how they broke through last weekend during a series in Houston.

As I talked about in the story, here's the video of Pillar's first MLB home run, the replay review and the ultimate decision. But the real key is near the end -- as umpire Bill Miller flips Pillar the ball. Neat.



Goins, meanwhile, has tied a franchise record with hits in his first eight games in the big leagues (Jesse Barfield did that as well in 1981). Here's Goins' first MLB hit:

 

Bisons' slim hopes still alive

By Mike Harrington

A little lost in the hoopla of the Bisons-Blue Jays PDC extension is the fact that Thursday's come-from-behind win over Rochester kept the Bisons' flickering playoff hopes alive.

The Herd pulled within 3 1/2 games of IL wild-card leader Norfolk, a 2-0 loser at Charlotte. But with only four games left, the Bisons basically have no room for error. They play the next two nights at Rochester, which is a half-game behind Norfolk, and the final two in Syracuse.

Two more wins would clinch a winning season for the Bisons, which would be one decent thing in the first season with Toronto. The best Buffalo can do is 75-69, so it will need plenty of help.

Small chances. It's pretty much wait till next year. Or more specificially, 214 days from now. To the home opener against Rochester on April 3, 2014.

Here's a look at Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos and Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski signing the new deal.

Bulletin: Bisons extend deal with Blue Jays through 2016

By Mike Harrington

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski took the field tonight at the end of the third inning with a surprise announcement to the Fan Appreciation Night crowd at Coca-Cola Field -- the Bisons and Blue Jays have agreed to a two-year extension of their player development contract, which will now run through the 2016 season.

The Bisons and Blue Jays signed a two-year deal last September and clearly made a quick decision to extend the deal so there would be no discussion of it next year. That said, the move was not unexpected. When the teams signed last fall, Blue Jays president Paul Beeston noted it was a two-year deal he hoped would last for 42 years. 

Anthopoulos and Buczkowski officially signed the deal in front of fans at a table placed in foul territory in front of the Buffalo dugout between innings, with their handshake drawing a huge round of applause from the big crowd. There was a brief video presentation, accompanied by the musical ditty "OK, Blue Jays" that has been a part of Toronto baseball for more than 30 years.

Anthopoulos and Buczkowski are scheduled to meet the media shortly to discuss the extension.

In meeting the media in the press box during tonight's game, Anthopoulos succinctly put his organization's position out there: "It was a no-brainer for us. I think anybody in Toronto could make this call."

Continue reading "Bulletin: Bisons extend deal with Blue Jays through 2016" »

One final time, Bisons take the field at home

PhotoBy Mike Harrington

Nearly five months after it began with a 12-7 win over Rochester that triumphantly opened the Toronto Blue Jays era in Buffalo, the Bisons' home schedule will end tonight against the same Red Wings.

The promise of April has turned into the dashed dreams of August, as a loss tonight will eliminate the Bisons from contention for the International League wild-card and give them eight straight years without a playoff berth.

Still, there's a good feeling around the ballpark as "Thank You" is painted in foul territory behind first and third bases in a salute to the fans as you see in the photo above (h/t Twitter feed of Amy Moritz). The crowd tonight should be at least 15,000 and perhaps even more, so it will be interesting to calculate the attendance bump the team got from its new affiliation and from fans crossing the Peace Bridge who had otherwise never ventured here before.

"I think they really enjoyed the atmosphere here in the ballpark and seeing the young players and now they get to see them in Toronto too," manager Marty Brown told me before the game. "We've gotten an even bigger response from Canadian fans than we've even imagined, the way they've enjoyed themselves. And I think it's only going to get better."

The playoff race: It's just about toast but for the record Norfolk is 74-64 heading into its game tonight at Charlotte. Rochester (74-65) is a half-game back while Lehigh Valley (71-68, going into a game at Scranton) is 3 1/2 out and the Bisons (70-69) are 4 1/2 back.

Moving on up: Brown said he was thrilled to read reports and watch video of his former players helping the Blue Jays take two of three games from the Yankees this week. Kevin Pillar, Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and Ryan Goins have all made big contributions and be sure to read my post from earlier today about Gose and Goins combining to nail Alex Rodriguez at the plate last night.

"They're young, energetic and extremely talented guys and it doesn't surprise me at all the way they went about their jobs here that they're having success up there," Brown said. "It's nice to see. That's why I still do this job. It's great, a big part of it."

Transactions: Chien-Ming Wang has cleared waivers and returned to Buffalo while catcher Jack Murphy has been promoted from Double-A New Hampshire. Catcher A.J. Jimenez has been placed on the temporary inactive list with elbow irritation and pitcher Tommy Hottovy has gone on the disabled list. 

Tonight's activities:  The team's end-of-season awards have been presented prior to the game tonight and the winners are Mauro Gomez-Stan Barron MVP; Justin Germano-Warren Spahn Most Valuable Pitcher; Chien-Ming Wang-Comeback Player of the Year; Mike Nickeas-Inspirational; Jim Negrych-Hometown Hero; Anthony Gose-Community Service. The Fan of the Year is Mike Klein, a longtime season ticket holder in Section 113.

Tonight's lineup:

Mike McCoy, ss
Blake Gailen, lf
Mauro Gomez, 1b
Clint Robinson, dh
Andy LaRoche, 3b
Ryan Langerhans, cf
Brad Glenn, rf
Jim Negrych, 2b
Mike Nickeas, c
---
Sean Nolin, p 

Bisons, er, Blue Jays take two of three from Yankees as Gose-to-Goins nails A-Rod

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- It's just about over for the Bisons, whose tragic number fell to 2 in the International League wild-card race with Wednesday's 5-2 loss to Rochester in Coca-Cola Field. One reason the Herd has slogged to the finish is because the guts of its lineup is in the Rogers Centre.

Bad news in Buffalo but good news organization-wide as the ex-Bisons made big contributions the last three days as the Blue Jays took two of three games from the Yankees.

Second baseman Ryan Goins continued his red-hot work at the plate with two more hits, but the key play in Wednesday's 7-2 romp past the Yankees was his relay throw to the plate in the fourth to nail Alex Rodriguez at home.

Watch the MLB.com video of the play here.

Mark Reynolds' laser to right barely missed clearing the wall for a three-run homer that would have cut what was a 7-0 deficit to 7-4, and the ball ricocheted past Moises Sierra in right. Anthony Gose alertly backed it up and fired a strike to Goins (hitting cutoff men has been a rarity in these parts this season). Goins, in short right field, fired home to catcher J.P. Arencibia to nail a chugging A-Rod.

Why the Yankees sent him in that spot is anybody's guess. Joe Girardi said he had no problem with it  but that was just covering for A-Rod and the over-aggressiveness of third-base coach Rob Thomson.

Continue reading "Bisons, er, Blue Jays take two of three from Yankees as Gose-to-Goins nails A-Rod" »

Yankees win on field -- and in X-ray room as Cano is OK

Cano
Robinson Cano grimaces as trainer Steve Donahue checks out his wrist while Joe Girardi, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano look on (Getty Images).


By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- The Yankees were happy with Tuesday's 7-1 victory over the Blue Jays/Bisons. They were more than happy with Robinson Cano's negative X-ray.

Cano was drilled in the first inning by a J.A. Happ pitch. If the hand was broken and he was out for the season, that probably would have been it for their wild-card hopes. So it was a rare reprieve in a season that' s featured two broken hand bones for Curtis Granderson (one from Happ in spring training) and one last week from Jayson Nix thanks to R.A. Dickey.

"Obviously your thought is, whenever a guy gets hit in the hand, you're concerned," said manager Joe Girardi. "He could be out for a while. You're never really sure. Every hand that has been X-rayed has come back poorly. We had to go to another country to get a good one."

"I was hurt. I was real concerned," Cano said. "It was a lot of pain. The doctor checked me [in the Blue Jays' clubhouse). We wanted to make sure and went to the hospital."

Cano said he will sit out Wednesday's series finale and should play Friday. Backup Eduardo Nunez tweaked his knee on the turf and is iffy for Wednesday as well, leaving Mark Reynolds potentially at second base.

Prior to the game, I attended Mariano Rivera's session with Blue Jays' employees. Be sure to read my column in Wednesday's editions of The News.

More  on the Yankees' win:

Continue reading "Yankees win on field -- and in X-ray room as Cano is OK" »

Yankee Doodles from Rogers Centre: Departing Mariano meets Jays' employees, Gibbons will return as manager in 2014

IMG_1498
My view of Mariano Rivera and the Blue Jays employees today. Yankees PR head Jason Zillo is moderating to Rivera's left.(click for bigger view) 


By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- The Yankees and Blue Jays meet in the middle game of their three-game series tonight and a lot has gone here this afternoon in Rogers Centre before a pitch has been thrown.

Be sure to read my column in Wednesday's Buffalo News about Mariano Rivera's meet-and-greet Q&A with Blue Jays employees. Twenty members of the staff, most of them not related to the actual playing of the game, met with Rivera and Yankees PR head Jason Zillo in a third-floor conference room for about 45 minutes talking about baseball, life, his retirement plans and his thoughts on his career.

Rivera is doing this in every city on his farewell tour over his final season as a way to say thank you to all the people who make baseball games possible.

"It is been a privilege for me to be in baseball," Rivera said. "I want to make sure I say thank you to all of those involved. I want to make sure I thank you guys for what you do in baseball, to help us prepare for every day."

I've been at plenty of great games in my career, including some of Rivera's greatest triumphs and greatest failures. This was as riveting as any of them. It was an unvarnished chance to listen to a man who is one of the game's greatest ambassadors.

Mo lottAnd he talked about everything: The evolution of the cutter, his toughest hitter to face (Edgar Martinez), his post-retirement plans (fishing and hanging out with his family, perhaps even in his pajamas), and even his favorite mascot (he liked the Mariner Moose). 

The most emotional moments were saved for his thoughts on the late George Steinbrenner, particularly how The Boss came up to him after he lost Game Seven of the 2001 World Series in Arizona.

"The first one that came to my locker was the Boss," Rivera said. "He looked at me and I looked straight at his face and I said, 'Boss, I gave my best and my best wasn't good enough tonight.' And he said I know and he hugged me and I hugged him. To me that was George Steinbrenner.

"If there was something I could change, I wish he could be alive so I can say thank you for all he did for me."

In other news, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos announced that manager John Gibbons is staying next season and that puts an end to lots of talk that really began over the weekend as the team was struggling in Houston. Fair enough. Gibbons has his faults (the team is pretty fundamentally lax) but he's a solid guy liked by the players and front office.

Moreover, I'd like to see how Gibbons does when the players aren't either a) underachieving or b) hurt. Anthopoulos said today there will be changes next year so this will be a last chance.

Moises Sierra, Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar are all in the Blue Jays lineup again. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez both in the lineup for the Yankees, with A-Rod moved up to fifth after last night's home run. 

(Rivera picture above left courtesy of John Lott/National Post)

 

Bisons' Gomez named IL all-star DH, becomes first postseason honoree for Herd since '07

By Mike Harrington

Mauro Gomez was named as the designated hitter on the International League All-Star team today, making him the first Buffalo Bison honored by the IL since 2007.

Gomez, an April waiver claim from the Boston Red Sox, is batting .243 with 28 homers and 68 RBIs for the Herd in 103 games. The 28 homers are tied for second in the league and rank in the top 10 in all of minor league baseball. Gomez leads the team in RBIs, extra-base hits (47) and total bases (196).

Gomez is the Bisons' 39th postseason all-star in their modern era and their first since outfielder Ben Francisco was named in 2007. Buffalo did not have a postseason all-star in its four-year affiliation with the New York Mets. Gomez also played in this year's Triple-A All-Star Game in Reno, Nev.

The only other Bisons player to be selected in the DH position was Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Young in 2004. Gomez, the IL MVP last year with Pawtucket, joins Gwinnett's Barbaro Canizares (2009-10) as the only players in IL history to earn all-star DH honors in consecutive years.

Rochester first baseman Chris Colabello was named the IL's MVP and Rookie of Year, becoming the first player to sweep those awards since Columbus' J.T. Snow in 1992. Former Bison J.D. Martin of Durham, the league leader with 15 wins, was named Pitcher of the Year and Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo was named Manager of the Year. 

The league's announcement of the complete team can be read here.

Yankee Doodles from Rogers Centre: Jeter & A-Rod finally start together; Bisons Ochinko gets 50-game PED suspension

Jeter
For the third time this season, Derek Jeter's wait to get off the DL ends tonight. (Getty Images)


By Mike Harrington

 

TORONTO -- It's Aug. 26 and the Yankees will finally look much like the Yankees tonight in Rogers Centre as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are in the lineup together for the first time all season. That's crazy. Jeter is batting second and playing shortstop while A-Rod is batting sixth and playing third base.

"Yeah, it's hard to believe," Jeter told reporters in the Yankees' clubhouse prior to the game. "I've missed more games this year than the last 20 years combined. In that sense, I've been very fortunate. It seems like everything has happened to me in a year. It's hard to believe but you move forward. You can't change everything that has happened."

For the first time, Jeter admitted his legs haven't been nearly up to snuff in his comeback from his broken ankle. His comeback has twice been stymied, by quad and calf troubles.

"I haven't been able to work out since October to let a bone heal," he said. "You think about it, it's probably not surprising something happened."

Jeter, Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, who is out for the season, have combined for eight homers and 24 RBIs this season. So it's downright miraculous the Yankees are even within a sniff of the playoff race.

Continue reading "Yankee Doodles from Rogers Centre: Jeter & A-Rod finally start together; Bisons Ochinko gets 50-game PED suspension" »

Goins gets first MLB hit; Blue Jays sign Indy league star for Herd

By Mike Harrington

While most of the Blue Jays are going to want to quickly forget Friday's 12-4 loss to the woebegone Houston Astros, Bisons shortstop Ryan Goins never will. Making his major-league debut, Goins went 2 for 4 in front of a couple dozen family and friends from nearby Round Rock.

Click here to read about Goins' debut and see video of his first hit.

The Bisons, meanwhile, will have another new outfielder tonight for their game vs. Lehigh Valley. Multiple reports say the Blue Jays have signed Blake Gailen from Lancaster (Pa.) of the Atlantic League -- who was named Baseball America's 2012 Independent league player of the year after batting .338 with 22 home runs and 89 RBIs. He was batting .288-11-52 this season.

I still say the Bisons are done but they got a huge reprieve Friday night when Rochester blew a 6-1 lead in the ninth inning and suffered a stunning 7-6 loss to Indianapolis at Frontier Field. The Indians got a game-tying grand slam from former Bison catcher Lucas May and won the game on a sacrifice fly. So the Bisons are 3 1/2 behind Rochester for the wild card with 11 to play.

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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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