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IL Star of Game award another nice touch to strong season for Herd's Hendriks

Liam
Liam Hendriks works in the first inning Wednesday. (Associated Press)

By Mike Harrington

One of the best seasons by a starting pitcher in recent Bisons history continued Wednesday night for right-hander Liam Hendriks, as he was voted the International League's "Top Star" in its 7-3 win over the Pacific Coast League at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham, N.C.

Hendriks threw two shutout innings and struck out four, one of shy of the record by a starter in the 27-year-old midsummer affair. He became the first Buffalo pitcher to win the game since Roy Smith in 1993, who did it when Triple-A was three leagues and the game was played under a National League vs. American League affiliates format.

Hendriks threw 25 pitches and 19 went for strikes, true to his form from a regular season that has seen him strike out 74 and walk only seven in 94 1/3 innings. He hit the break 7-1 with a 2.19 earned-run average.

MILB.com has its full wrapup of the game at this link, complete with video of the MLB Network postgame video wtih Hendriks (there's no embed code-sorry). 

Hendriks is the fourth Bisons player to earn a Top Star award at the game, joining DHs Luis Lopez (1995 American Association) and Russell Branyan (1999 IL) and pitcher Matt Harvey, who threw two shutout innings for the IL in 2012 when the Bisons hosted the game in Coca-Cola Field.

The Bisons resume their season tonight in Pawtucket. They are 48-48 with 47 games to play and stand five games back in the IL wild-card race.

Blue Jays call up Gose, Bisons look to snap mini-skid

By Taylor Nigrelli 

The Bisons take the field tonight looking to snap a two-game losing streak against the visiting Durham Bulls, who lead the IL South.

They will have to do so without outfielder Anthony Gose whom the Blue Jays called up Saturday to replace injured Nolan Reimold, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

The team will also be without its leader in home runs and walks as the Blue Jays called up Dan Johnson Friday.

P.J. Walters (2-0, 3.27) will make his fourth start for the Bisons. The righty has had a bit of a roller coaster 2014, as he’s played for three teams.

He started the year in the Pacific Coast League with the Omaha Storm Chasers. The Blue Jays acquired him in a trade and placed him in Double-A New Hampshire. After four solid starts, he was promoted to Buffalo.

Righty Matt Andriese (9-4, 3.41) will get the call for Durham. The former San Diego third-round pick has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the International League this season, posting wins in eight wins in his past nine decisions. He’s tied with four others for third in the IL with nine total wins on the season.

Tonight’s Lineup:

Ryan Goins – 2B
Jared Goedert – 3B
Kevin Pillar – CF
Cory Aldridge – DH
Brad Glenn – LF
Ryan Schimpf – RF
Mike McDade – 1B
Mike Nickeas – C
Jonathan Diaz – SS

Bisons host RailRiders in Independence Eve game

By Taylor Nigrelli

In what has become a popular tradition locally, the Buffalo Bisons will host their annual Independence Eve game tonight, complete with the season's largest post-game fireworks display and a performance by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus.

As of this morning, only 3000 tickets were available for the game.

The 20th edition of Independence Eve will feature a matchup against the struggling Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (40-46). The Herd (45-40) took the first two games of a five-game set with 1-0 and 3-1 wins yesterday in a double-header.

The Bisons may be a little fatigued heading into tonight’s matchup as four of the team’s past six contests have gone into extra innings.

Esmil Rogers (2-1, 3.10), who’s spent time in both Toronto and Buffalo this year, will get the start for the Bisons. Chris Leroux (1-2, 7.94) is expected to get the call for the Railriders.

The Herd will be looking to build on a recent hot streak that’s seen the team win five of its past seven games.

Tonight’s starting lineup:

Kenny Wilson – LF
Ryan Goins – 2B
Kevin Pillar – CF
Dan Johnson – 1B
Erik Kratz – DH
A.J. Jimenez – C
Ryan Schimpf – RF
Andy LaRoche – 3B
Jonathan Diaz - SS

Updated: Season over for Herd's Romero after knee surgery

By Mike Harrington

The day after his franchise-record, nine-walk meltdown May 16 against Gwinnett in Coca-Cola Field, Ricky Romero and I sat alone in the Bisons' dugout following batting practice and he insisted his arm was fine. But he also confirmed my suspicion when he told me his knees probably weren't.

The Blue Jays put Romero on the disabled list after two more starts in Buffalo that featured 10 more walks, and now from Sportsnet's Shi Davidi with the parent club in New York comes this news today: Romero has had surgery on his left knee and may be looking at work to be done on the other if an evaluation in six weeks deems it necessary.

7 p.m. update: The Blue Jays have confirmed Romero's surgery was performed June 17 in Los Angeles and is season-ending. Recovery time is listed as six months.

Romero, the former 15-game winner and American League All-Star, was 0-3 with a 5.50 ERA in nine starts for the Bisons this season. But more than that, he gave up 37 hits and 42 walks in just 37 2/3 innings while striking out only 28. His numbers and his hideous game-by-game log are all at this link.

The Blue Jays are paying Romero $7.5 million this year and $7.5 million next year before they can buy him out for $600,000 following the 2015 season. Now, it appears there's a distinct chance Romero's 2014 season could be over entirely.

And you thought Ville Leino made some easy money.

On the air: Harrington talks Yankees-Blue Jays in Syracuse

The Blue Jays and Yankees open a key series tonight in the Bronx and News Sports Reporter Mike Harrington looked at the series late this afternoon with St. Bonaventure grad Mike Lindsley on The Score 1260 in Syracuse. The interview was taped shortly before the Jays announced they have optioned 2013 All-Star reliever Steve Delabar back to the Bisons.

The interview also included Harrington's remembrances of Tony Gwynn and a brief discussion of the Sabres' announcement today that they will be buying out Ville Leino. Click the audio file below to listen to the interview.

 

Mike Harrington on AM1260 in Syracuse

Tanaka vs. Stroman in Yanks-Jays opener in the Bronx; Delabar sent to Bisons

By Mike Harrington

The Blue Jays open a key series tonight in Yankee Stadium in a rare spot for them in recent years: First place in the American League East, and by 4 1/2 games, no less.

The pitching matchup sees Masahiro Tanaka facing Toronto for the second time this year against Blue Jays rookie Marcus Stroman, a Long Island native pitching in the Bronx for the first time in his career. It will be very interesting to see how Tanaka does against a team that has seen him before.

I got a good look at Tanaka on Opening Night in Toronto and he was impressive, just like he's been all season.

Stroman talked to Toronto reporters about the trip home to New York over the weekend in Baltimore:

---You can read about Stroman's return home in John Lott's story in the National Post here.

---You can read Brendan Kennedy's story in the Toronto Star here. 

Incredibly, the Blue Jays have lost 13 straight at Yankee Stadium -- going 0-10 in the Bronx last season -- and 22 of 24 going back to 2011. Here's a look at the pitching matchups for the series.

They've called up Munenori Kawasaki from the Bisons and sent reliever Steve Delabar -- who was in the All-Star Game last year -- back to Buffalo in a bit of a surprise move. Delabar is 3-0, 4.68 with 21 strikeouts and 16 walks in 25 innings. Kawasaki has been huge for the Herd lately, batting .387 (12-31) over his last 13 games, and should join a second-base platoon for the Jays with Steve Tolleson.

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet has notes on the transactions from GM Alex Anthopoulos' pregame meeting with reporters.

Bisons/Blue Jays roster moves continue: A recap of a busy day

By Mike Harrington

The Blue Jays and Bisons keep burning up the transaction wire in advance of Buffalo's series opener tonight in Toledo.

We've already given you the lowdown today on the promotion of top prospect and former No. 1 pick Aaron Sanchez, who will make his Triple-A debut Saturday night, and the addition of Toronto center fielder Colby Rasmus on an injury rehab assignment. 

But there's plenty more where those moves came from. As of 4 p.m. today, here's the latest Bisons/Blue Jays transactions:

----Promoted from Double-A New Hampshire to Buffalo: P Aaron Sanchez, OF (and former New York Yankee) Melky Mesa.

---Returned to Double-A from Buffalo: OF Kenny Wilson, P Gregory Infante.

---Added on Major League Rehab: OF Colby Rasmus

---Promoted to Toronto yesterday: OF Darin Mastroinni

---Added from Toronto yesterday: OF Kevin Pillar, who has a 26-game on-base streak with Buffalo that is the longest current one in the International League.

---Released: P Ryan Rowland-Smith (had an out in his contract anytime after June 1 if another MLB club wanted to sign him).

---Traded: OF Matt Tuiasosopo, to the Chicago White Sox for cash. He'll likely report to Charlotte.

---Acquired in trade by Toronto: OF Adron Chambers, from Houston for a pair of Class A prospects. Chambers, who has played 84 games with the St. Louis Cardinals over the last three years, was batting .281 for Oklahoma City of the Houston chain. His assignment was finalized late Thursday afternoon and he's expected to join the Bisons in the next day or two.

Blue Jays promote top pitching prospect Sanchez to Bisons

Sanchez
Aaron Sanchez was the Blue Jays' second first-round choice in 2010. (Toronto Star via Getty Images)



By Mike Harrington

Bisons fans had a memorable, albeit short, stint of watching Blue Jays megaprospect Marcus Stroman on the mound in Buffalo this year. It looks like they're about to get a chance to see Toronto's other big arm.

As first reported by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, the Blue Jays promoted 21-year-old right-hander Aaron Sanchez from Double-A New Hampshire to the Herd today. Sanchez is 3-2 with a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts with the Fisher Cats but has been particularly impressive in winning his last two outings, allowing three runs in 11 2/3 innings -- but striking out 14 and walking just three.

Sanchez, who is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, is generally considered the top Toronto prospect still in the minors. He was listed as MLB.com's No. 19 overall prospect prior to the season and was ranked No. 32 by Baseball America.

The callup of Sanchez will give the Bisons a pair of 2010 first-round draft choices in their rotation. Deck McGuire, who recently joined the team from New Hampshire, was the No. 11 pick that year and Sanchez went No. 34 as a compensation pick for the loss of former Bison Marco Scutaro in free agency. And Stroman, remember, was Toronto's No. 1 pick in 2012.

Sanchez's career to date has been marked by careful logging of his innings, especially since he missed a month last year with shoulder discomfort. He's yet to throw more than 91 innings in a season, although he finished last year strong, getting additional innings in the Arizona Fall League and earning the starting nod in the league's Rising Stars Game. Sanchez is already at 66 innings this year so he will certainly blow by that number in 2014. 

Sanchez had an impressive spring with the Blue Jays, capped by 5 2/3 scoreless innings in an outing against Tampa Bay that featured the bulk of the Rays' major-league lineup. He was so good that broadcaster Buck Martinez, the former Jays catcher and manager, said he should open the season in the big-league rotation. The Blue Jays followed the advice of Toronto Star columnist Richard Griffin and played it safe with Sanchez, putting him in Double-A.

The Bisons play their series opener tonight in Toledo, with Sean Nolin scheduled to start. There's no word yet how the rotation might go although Sanchez's normal day to pitch would be Friday so stay tuned. The team does not return home until opening a series June 20 against Rochester.

Noon update: The Toronto Star is reporting Sanchez's Triple-A debut will come Saturday at Toledo.

Bisons snap four-game skid, McGuire shines

By Taylor Nigrelli 

The Bisons used another dominant Deck McGuire performance to beat Toledo, 5-2, and snap a four-game losing streak Thursday afternoon in front of an announced School Kids Day crowd of 15,361 in Coca-Cola Field.  

McGuire pitched seven innings, allowed one run on three hits and tied a Bisons season high with 10 strikeouts. McGuire moved to 2-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.29 in his third Triple-A start.

The Bisons grabbed the lead early, scoring four runs in the first inning on the strength of back-to-back two-RBI base hits by Matt Tuiasosopo and Ryan Goins. The Herd would add a fifth run in the eighth inning on a Darin Mastroianni sacrifice fly.

Mike Hessman, who’s currently tied with Bisons great Ollie Carnegie for the all-time International League home run record of 258, failed to break the record, finishing 0-3 with a walk.

The Bisons will look to come away with a series split with the Mud Hens when they take the field Friday for a 7:05 start. Sean Nolin (2-2) and Mike Belfiore (2-2) are expected to start for Buffalo and Toledo, respectively. 

Hessman returns to lineup, Bisons take on Toledo in early game

By Taylor Nigrelli 

After missing the past three games to recover from a procedure that removed “pre-cancerous growths” from his face, Toledo Mud Hens infielder Mike Hessman will return to the lineup this afternoon in the third game of a four-game set between Toledo and Buffalo.

Hessman is currently tied with Bisons great Ollie Carnegie for most home runs – 258 – in International League history.  He’ll bat fourth and play third base.

Today’s game will feature an unusually early 10:35 a.m. first pitch as the Bisons are holding their annual “school kid’s day” promotion.

When the Herd takes the field – just over 12 hours after leaving it last night – it will be looking to snap out of a rough stretch that has stretched over two weeks. The Bisons have lost four straight and 10 of 12 contests.

Buffalo will hand the ball to Deck McGuire for his third triple-A start. The former first round pick has pitched well so far – he’s 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA. Drew VerHagen (3-5, 3.77) will get the call for Toledo.

Today’s lineup:

Darin Mastroianni – CF
Munenori Kawasaki – 2B
Jared Goedert  - 3B
Dan Johnson – DH
Matt Tuiasosopo – 1B
Ryan Goins – SS
Brett Carroll – RF
Mike Nikeas – C
Kenny Wilson - LF

Bisons fall to under .500 in extra innings loss, Hessman sits

By Taylor Nigrelli 

The Bisons fell to under .500 – 27-28 – for the first time all season after dropping an 11-inning contest, 5-4, to the Toledo Mud Hens Tuesday.

The loss came with some controversy as Toledo’s Jordan Lennerton scored on a close-play at home plate in the 11th inning to take the lead . Bisons manager Gary Allenson believed he saw catcher A.J. Jimenez tag Lennerton and went out to argue the call. He was subsequently ejected.

“I thought the guy was out,” Allenson said. “I thought Jimenez tagged him on the sleeve. I went out to argue but (the umpire) wasn’t in position to see the tag. He was behind the plate.”

On a brighter note for the Bisons, the game saw both Liam Hendriks and Bobby Korecky make their returns to the Buffalo pitching staff after short stints in Toronto.

Hendriks gave up four runs, three of which came on a third inning home run, and struck out six. He tied a Bisons season high with eight innings pitched. Korecky pitched scoreless ninth and tenth innings.

Dan Johnson slugged his team-leading 11th homer of the year, cutting across the wind to land over the right centerfield wall.

The Bisons will look to even the series Wednesday as they will take on Toledo in game two of a four-game set. Radhames Liz, who was recently promoted from New Hampshire (AA) will get the start for Buffalo. Kyle Lobstein (4-5) is expected to get the call for Toledo. 

Toledo slugger Mike Hessman, who is currently tied with Bisons great Ollie Carnegie for the International League home run record with 258, sat out Tuesday's game after having a procedure done to remove pre-cancerous growths from his face. 

Hessman sits as Bisons open series against Mud Hens

By Taylor Nigrelli

Toledo slugger Mike Hessman, who is currently tied with Bisons great Ollie Carnegie for the all-time International League home run record with 258, will  not start today, as was previously expected.

Hessman was also not in the lineup yesterday as he had pre-cancerous growths removed from his nose and forehead.

Buffalo fans may still have a chance to see Hessman, who played briefly for the Bisons in 2010, break Carnegie’s record if he’s able to play either Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

Liam Hendriks (5-0, 1.48) will get the start for the Bisons (27-27) tonight as the team opens up a four-game set against the Toledo Mud Hens (27-31).

Hendriks gets the call after spending nearly two weeks with the Toronto Blue Jays. The righty pitched just 11 and two-thirds innings in two starts for the big club but sported an impressive 2.31 ERA.

The Blue Jays outrighted Hendriks Tuesday. In doing so, the Jays called up righty Chad Jenkins for the third time this season. The Herd will also be without relief pitchers Neil Wagner and John Stilson, who were moved to the disabled list Monday.

Duane Below (3-1, 3.81) will get the call tonight for Toledo.

Bisons lineup:

Darin Mastroianni - CF
Ryan Goins – 2B
Jared Goedert – 3B
Dan Johnson - DH
A.J. Jimenez - C
Matt Tuiasosopo – 1B
Brett Carroll - RF
Kenny Wilson - LF
Jonathan Diaz - SS

Bizarre Sunday recap: Bisons lose four pitchers to injury -- and game -- to Chiefs

By Mike Harrington

Hard to tell what was worse Sunday: The fact the Buffalo Bisons blew a 5-1 lead and eventually gave up four runs in the ninth to fall to Syracuse, 8-5 -- or the fact the Herd lost four pitchers to injury.

Yes, four.

Sean Nolin took a line drive to the leg in the morning during a simulated game. Then Ricky Romero (knee), Rob Rasmussen (liner to arm) and Neil Wagner (forearm) all left during the game.

"Just a weird day for us, starting from our 'simgame,' " said catcher Mike Nickeas. "An unlucky day. Weird stuff. Ricky to Ras to Wags. Unfortunate for us all the way around."

The Bisons had a 5-1 lead through three innings with Romero seeking his first win of the season. But he hit Gerald Laird with a pitch on his second delivery of the fourth and had to leave because of pain behind his knee. Rasmussen left after getting drilled by Destin Hood's liner that was turned into a 1-5-3 out to end the seventh. Wagner's wild pitch with two out in the ninth allowed Zach Walters to snap a 5-5 tie and score the eventual winning run, and was a clear sign something was wrong with him as well.

Manager Gary Allenson said all four pitchers will need to be re-evaluated on Monday to determine if any are going on the disabled list. Reinforcements could be on the way, however, as the Blue Jays returned Liam Hendriks to the Buffalo rotation and ace reliever Bobby Korecky could be returned if he clears waivers.

The Bisons managed just four hits in the game -- none over the final 4 2/3 innings. They got all their runs in the third, with Dan Johnson's three-run homer to the party deck in right capping the uprising.  The loss dropped Buffalo three games behind Rochester in the IL North standings, the Herd's biggest deficit of the season.

The series with Syracuse concludes Monday night at (TWC, Radio 1520 AM) as Buffalo's Kyle Drabek (4-4) faces Syracuse lefty Aaron Laffey (5-3). He went 15-5 with the Bisons in 2007-08, the final two years of the Cleveland affiliation, and has pitched 153 games for five teams in the big leagues.

Bisons use big eighth inning to upend Chiefs

The Bisons offense came alive Saturday as the team snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over Syracuse.

Buffalo starter Deck McGuire impressed, going seven innings and allowing just two runs on three hits. However, Syracuse starter Taylor Jordan was more impressive for most of the game, allowing just one hit in seven innings at one point.

Jordan began to struggle a bit in the eighth, however, and the Bisons took full advantage of the opportunity. Andy La Roche and Munenori Kawasaki led off the inning with singles before Kenny Wilson hit into a fielder’s choice.

Things began to look bleak again for Buffalo as Darin Mastrianni popped up for the second out. However, Jordan walked Ryan Goins and was subsequently taken out to allow Xavier Cedeno finish the inning.

Cedeno surrendered back-to-back two-RBI singles to Jared Goedert and Dan Johnson before getting A.J. Jimenez to strike out. But the damage was done. Neil Wagner came on to earn his fourth save with a scoreless ninth inning.

As Bisons manager finished up his press conference after the game, he summed up what many Bisons faithful are liking thinking.

“Hopefully, we’re back on track,” he said.

The Bisons will take on Syracuse again tomorrow in the third game of a four-game set. Ricky Romero and Ryan Tatusko are scheduled to take the start. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05. 

Bisons' longest homestand of season opens tonight

By Mike Harrington

The Bisons return home tonight and their longest stand of the season in Coca-Cola Field opens at 7 p.m. against the Syracuse Chiefs. It's a 10-game stand, featuring six games against Syracuse (Washington) and four against Toledo (Detroit).

The Bisons' 3-5 road trip ended with Thursday's 3-2 loss at Indianapolis, a game that saw the Herd take a 2-0 lead in the first and fail to score again as its offensive struggles continue.

The Bisons have dropped five of their last six, collecting just 13 runs in those games, and they have scored in just three of their last 28 innings. They're tied for 10th in the International League in runs at 211, and are just four off the bottom run held by Rochester.

The Herd is staying afloat thanks to a pitching staff that's posted a 3.37 team ERA (which would be the lowest for a full season since the 2002 club posted a 3.30).

The Bisons are 26-24 and have fallen 1 1/2 games back of first-place Syracuse in the IL North. The Chiefs (29-24) have won eight of last 10 and the Bisons will play eight of their next 12 games against them. Top Toronto prospect Marcus Stroman is scheduled to start for Buffalo tonight. 

The visit by Toledo starts Tuesday and Mud Hens DH Mike Hessman is currently at 257 home runs, one shy of the IL record of 258 set by Bisons legend Ollie Carnegie.

The promotional schedule is chock full as well. There is the team's annual post-game Home Run Derby tonight. Saturday is Dog Day, with a pregame dog parade and fans able to bring their pooch on the right field berm. Sunday is Cap Day, Thursday is the team's annual 10:35 a.m School Kids Day, and next Saturday (June 7) is Star Wars Night -- with only about 2,500 tickets left.

Video: Blue Jays use Buffalo connection to push streak to 9

By Mike Harrington

The Blue Jays have won nine in a row. Their next four games are in Rogers Centre against struggling Kansas City -- which just got swept at home by the Astros and was outscored, 21-5, in the process. Talk about a chance to blow things open early to get a grip on a playoff berth. R.A Dickey gets the start in tonight's game.

The Jays completed the sweep of Tampa Bay Wednesday night thanks to some Buffalove. Anthony Gose's bunt was thrown down the first-base line and Kevin Pillar raced home from first, scoring the winning run with a head-first dive in the bottom of the ninth.

Check out the play here. (sorry, MLB embed code not working right now).

Earlier this week, John Lott of the National Post did this roundup of ex-Bisons contributing in Toronto.

My guess is that Gose will stay with the Jays from this point and that Pillar will come back to Buffalo when Rasmus is ready. And that should really help the Bisons because Pillar is hitting around .300 in the big leagues and will now have the added confidence of the stint up there and knowing he's fully on the big club's radar any time there's a need.

Blue Jays wrap up sweep at Fenway, call up Hendriks from Bisons to start Friday vs. Oakland

By Mike Harrington

The Toronto Blue Jays are alone in first place after wrapping up a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park with a 7-2 win early Thursday evening.  Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista homered on back-to-back pitches in the first inning off Jon Lester and that was all Mark Buehrle needed to become MLB's first eight-game winner.

After the game, the Jays announced they have called up red-hot Buffalo Bisons starter Liam Hendriks and will give him the start Friday night in the series opener against the Oakland Athletics in Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays want to separate Buehrle from knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and will put their No. 5 slot in between them, instead of going to Hendriks Saturday. 

Hendriks (5-0, 1.48 in nine games/seven starts) is second in the International League in ERA, tied for second in wins and has an IL-leading 0.80 WHIP. He has walked just three batters in 48 2/3 innings.

The game will mark the start of a stretch where the Jays will have 16 of their next 19 games at home. So far, at least, that hasn't been a good thing for teams in the AL East. Toronto is just 10-11 in Rogers Centre and no East club is over .500. The Red Sox, in fact, endured an 0-6 homestand for the first time since 1994 and are 10-17 in Fenway -- the second-most home losses in baseball.

Three-run homer sinks Stroman as Bisons fall to Lehigh Valley

By Mike Harrington

Marcus Stroman got his work in Tuesday in Coca-Cola Field, but one pitch conspired to ruin his day.

Lehigh Valley's Jim Murphy slugged a three-run homer off the Toronto Blue Jays' prized prospect with two outs in the fourth inning, and that proved to be enough as the IronPigs held off the Buffalo Bisons, 3-2, before an announced crowd of 5,428.

Stroman, back down from the parent Toronto Blue Jays after a stint in the parent club's bullpen, was razor-sharp in his first three innings before running into trouble in innings 4-5. 

Stroman fired six no-hit innings in his previous Triple-A start, April 29 against Lousiville, before getting pulled because of a pitch count. He retired the first seven hitters Tuesday, stretching that run to 8 1/3 innings in Triple-A before Leandro Castro's clean single to shallow left.

In the fourth, Stroman issued a one-out walk to Darin Ruf and gave up Steve Susdorf's two-out single. He fell behind Murphy, 2 and 0, and the IronPigs' first baseman crushed a no-doubt blast over the fence in left-center to give the visitors the lead.

Stroman got through five innings, throwing 40 of his 64 pitches for strikes before getting removed because of a pitch limit. He allowed five hits, struck out five and walked one. Despite a 2.27 earned-run average, he is just 2-3 in his six starts with Buffalo.

The Bisons staked Stroman to a 2-0 lead in the third as Jack Murphy and Munenori Kawasaki lined back-to-back doubles to produce a run and Jared Geodert's fielder's choice grounder scored another. Kawasaki's two-bagger was his ninth of the season, tied for the team lead, and extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

Buffalo had runners on second and third with one out in the ninth but Jack Murphy took a called third strike -- one pitch after his screaming foul ball to deep right was a couple of feet away from turning into a walkoff homer. Kawasaki then took a called third strike.

The Bisons and IronPigs split the four-game series, but the Bisons finished 2-5 on their homestand. Buffalo is off  Wednesday and starts an eight-game road trip Thursday in Lousvillle. The next home game is May 30 against Syracuse.

Stroman back on hill for Bisons matinee, homestand finale

By Mike Harrington

The Bisons wrap up their homestand today with a 1 p.m. matinee against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and it marks the return of Marcus Stroman to the rotation. Stroman was 2-2, 1.69 in five previous starts with the Herd -- including six no-hit innings April 29 against Lousville -- before getting called up to pitch in the Toronto bullpen. He's expected to be on about a 65-pitch limit today.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was on The Fan 590 in Toronto this morning and made it sound like Stroman's time back in Triple-A could be brief. The Blue Jays will start either Todd Redmond or Buffalo's Liam Hendriks Saturday against Oakland and might slide Stroman into that No. 5 slot in the rotation the next time it comes around after that.

The Blue Jays have called up Buffalo reliever Rob Rasmussen today and could send him back Friday if Hendriks gets the call.

The Bisons have also added veteran left-hander Raul Valdes, as the Blue Jays acquired him in a trade with Houston. He was 1-0, 3.48 at Oklahoma City and also pitched eight games with Houston (0-0, 12.27). Valdes pitched nine games (seven starts) with the Bisons in 2010 when they were in the Mets chain and was 2-1, 3.00.

Here's the Bisons' lineup:

Darin Mastroianni, cf
Ryan Goins, 2b
Jared Goedert, 3b
Dan Johnson, dh
Brad Glenn, lf
Matt Tuiasosopo, 1b
Brett Carroll, rf
Jack Murphy, c
Munenori Kawasaki, ss
----
Marcus Stroman, p

As Bisons look to new series, Romero reflects on nine-walk disaster against G-Braves

By Mike Harrington

In more than two decades of covering the Bisons, the only pitcher I've seen struggle like Ricky Romero was Tim Wakefield. In between his meteoric rise with the Pirates and his rebirth for a long career with the Red Sox, Wakefield was 5-15 for Buffalo in 1994 and his knuckleball was all over the place.

Eventually, Wakefield figured things out, but the Pirates cut bait before it cost them any more money. As it turned out, they were premature in their decision. The Toronto Blue Jays don't have the same luxury with Ricky Romero, whom they are paying $7.5 million to this year and another $7.5 million next year.

Romero set a Buffalo franchise record with nine walks in the first game of last night's doubleheader against Gwinnett, an eventual 4-1 loss. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings and has walked an International League-high 32 in 29 2/3 innings this year. Romero said his arm is fine and that his pregame bullpen session last night was his best of the season. He had procedures done on his knees in October and said there are good days and bad days. Perhaps they're impacting his delivery.

"I've worked hard. There's no denying that," Romero told me today in the Bisons' dugout after batting practice. "It's frustrating and it's definitely not fun. You go home sit there and kind of say, "What the hell happened?" But you wake up today and it's a new day.

"I'd rather come out after 2 2/3 knowing I gave up nine hits and made them earn it than come out of the game and reflect what happened," Romero said. "I was like, 'Wow, they didn't even earn those two runs. I gave them to them.' When I'm in the zone and my stuff is moving, I know my stuff plays and it gives hitters trouble."

Romero was at the park early today and will throw some Sunday morning. He may get pushed back a few days, largely so he can attend his brother's college graduation at Long Beach State. Manager Gary Allenson said at this point he expects  to keep Romero starting to see if he can figure some things out.

"I look forward to the next day, forward to coming out here and working," Romero said. "My work ethic has never changed, whether I've been successful or not. The struggles are pretty hard. It's sleepless nights for sure. At the same time, you still have a job to do. Knowing I'm preparing and getting better in some areas away from the game like the weight room and better preparing my body is a big priority too."

The Bisons will be starting the anti-Romero today in right-hander Liam Hendriks, who is 5-0 with a 1.51 ERA -- and has walked just two men in 41 2/3 innings. Lehigh Valley will be spot-starting former Bisons hurler Brad Lincoln. As part of Armed Forces Tribute Day, the Bisons will be wearing camouflage caps.

Here's the Buffalo lineup:

Darin Mastroianni, cf
Ryan Goins, 2b
Jared Goedert, 3b
Dan Johnson, 1b
Brad Glenn, rf
Matt Tuiasosopo, lf
Andy LaRoche, dh
Mike Nickeas, c
Jonathan Diaz, ss
----
Liam Hendriks, p

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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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