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Struggling Bisons try different approach; Romero to start, Wang scratched

By Mike Harrington

Bisons manager Marty Brown used a little pyschology today with his struggling team. He canceled batting practice and told his players to hit in the indoor cage at 5:15 in preparation for tonight's series opener against Lehigh Valley in Coca-Cola Field. 

The Bisons have to do something different. They scored one run in the final 27 innings in Pawtucket and were shut out the last two games, extending their scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings.

"It's more about getting a little bit more tunnel vision," Brown told me late this afternoon. "We need to focus on some of the little things and take it out on the field."

The Bisons went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position the last three games in Pawtucket and left 19 men on base. Of course, just nine RISP at-bats in three games shows how little the offense did.

On the mound: Ricky Romero (4-6, 5.85) gets the start tonight and had one of his best outings of the year in his last one Saturday in Pawtucket, giving up just one run in seven innings. Chien-Ming Wang was supposed to go tonight and has been scratched with Thad Weber slated to throw tomorrow night.

Brown was very cryptic about Wang when I asked about the change saying only, "It wasn't my decision" and "he's healthy." It would appear Wang might be in line to start for the Blue Jays Saturday in Houston, which would be pretty ironic because Minute Maid Park was where Wang suffered his career-altering foot injury in 2008 running the bases for the Yankees.

The standings: This is the opener of a two-city, seven-game series with the Iron Pigs, who are tied with the Bisons at 67-64 and four games behind Pawtucket in the wild-card race. So a loss tonight drops the Bisons into fourth place in the North Division.

The roster: Mauro Gomez, who has slipped to second in the IL home run race with 28, will be back in the lineup tonight after coming off the DL following his oblique strain. He has not played since Aug. 4. The Blue Jays have re-signed outfielder Ryan Langerhans, a member of Buffalo's Opening Day lineup who was released on June 21 after batting .220. He has been playing since then for the Sugarland Skeeters (seriously), a Houston-are team in the independent Atlantic League, and will be in center field tonight.

Brown said Luis Jimenez, who continues to be homerless since June 29 due largely to knee tendonitis, is going to be limited to mere pinch-hitting duties the rest of the way. 

Here's the Buffalo lineup tonight:

Mike McCoy, ss
Jim Negrych, 2b
Ricardo Nanita, lf
Mauro Gomez, dh
Clint Robinson, 1b
Andy LaRoche, 3b
Ryan Langerhans, cf
Brad Glenn, rf
Mike Nickeas, c
----
Ricky Romero, p 

Mystery Ball Night might feature mystery Bisons

By Mike Harrington

Blue Jays second baseman Macier Izturis has gone on the disabled list with a sprained ankle suffered last night in New York and the Jays have called up infielder Ryan Goins from the Bisons for today's series finale in Yankee Stadium.

The Bisons, meanwhile, were off Wednesday and open a series tonight at 7 in Coca-Cola Field against Lehigh Valley on their always popular Mystery Ball Night. No idea who might be in the lineup.

Look who won't be from the last time the Herd was home: Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra, Kevin Pillar, Munenori Kawasaki and now Goins. That's a killer to a Triple-A team. 

Look who the Blue Jays have lost: Izturis, Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Josh Johnson, Steve Delabar, Dustin McGowan, Juan Perez. 

Who's left in Buffalo? The only 40-man roster guys here are the injured Mauro Gomez and catcher A.J. Jimenez, just up from Double-A New Hampshire. Luis Jimenez and Jim Negrych are still here from the Bisons' core but injuries have severely limited them for several weeks. 

With 13 games left, the Bisons are 4 1/2 games out in the North Division and four games out in the wild-card race. It's just about over for them. 

As for Mystery Ball Night, here's the complete list of all the autographs available and it's an awesome one. And don't forget the trading station that was introduced last year by the Washington Street gate to perhaps get a better autograph. Nice touch.

Blue Jays make it official: After big August, Bisons Gose gets another chance in Toronto

By Mike Harrington

Anthony Gose played in the Bisons' 4-2 loss to Rochester yesterday, then apparently hit the QEW to Toronto as he was seen in the Blue Jays' clubhouse in Rogers Centre last night so he could make the club charter to Florida. And the Blue Jays have now made it official: Gose has been recalled from the Herd and pitcher Mickey Storey has been returned to Buffalo.

Jays manager John Gibbons went one step further this morning during an interview on the FAN 590 in Toronto when he said he expects to start both Gose and Kevin Pillar in the outfield tonight for the series opener at Tampa Bay.

While the losses of Pillar and Gose are tough ones to stomach with the Bisons in the final 20 games of their playoff push, the Jays are dealing with center fielder Colby Rasmus being on the DL, second baseman/backup outfielder Emilio Bonifacio being traded to Kansas City and now utility man Munenori Kawasaki being on the paternity list.

Moreover, Pillar and Gose deserved the callup. Gose, especially, went through some tough times in Buffalo this season but has been at his best in August with a .283 batting average and 10 steals in 11 attempts. Since Aug. 4, Gose is at .313,has hit safely in 10 of 13 games and is 10 for 10 in steals.

For their part, the Bisons did pick up Eastern League all-star Brad Glenn from New Hampshire and he homered in his first Triple-A at-bat Thursday.  But this is shaping up to be a make-or-break part of the scheule with tonight's homestand finale against Rochester and a four-game set at red-hot Pawtucket opening Saturday night in McCoy Stadium.

The PawSox have won five in a row and have dropped the Bisons to third in the wild-card race, 1 1/2 games back. There are 18 games left and if the Bisons don't hold the fort the next five days, they're not going to have time to bounce back.

Welcome to the playoff push homestand

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

It's the most wonderful time of the baseball season, that is for those teams in the postseason race. And for the Buffalo Bisons, who found themselves 10 games back of the divisional race on June 27, it's all about controlling their own destiny, with a bit of scoreboard watching for good measure.

In Monday afternoon games, Lehigh Valley lost to Gwinnett, 5-4. Rochester, meanwhile, tied the game with two runs in the ninth and scored five in the 14th to win at Norfolk, 9-4.

And so the setup going into tonight's doubleheader at Coca-Cola Field with Syracuse (5:30 p.m., Radio 1520, TWCS) is this: Buffalo is three games behind Rochester for the IL North Division title and half a agame ahead of Norfolk and Pawtucket in the Wild Card race.

Buffalo begins a stretch of six games in five days at home, with two today and one tomorrow against Syracuse and then a three-game series with Rochester.

The Bisons start today with Ricky Romero. He had a rough start in his last outing, a no-decision on Aug. 6 against Pawtucket. The start was solid -- just one hit in three innings with his offense spotting him a 7-0 lead. He then gave up seven runs in the fourth inning.

Bobby Korecky will get the spot start in the second game. He his 3-0 with a 4.31 ERA.

In other news, the Bisons lead the Thruway Cup series with Rochester and Buffalo. I throw that in, because, well, because it's the cup.

Today's Game 1 Starting Lineup:
Mike McCoy -- 2B
Anthony Gose -- CF
Kevin Pillar -- LF
Clint Robinson -- 1B
Moises Sierra -- RF
Luis Jimenez -- DH
Ryan Goins -- 3B
Munenori Kawasaki -- SS
Mike Nickeas -- C 

Jays' Hutchison on mound as Bisons' Brown goes for No. 300

By Mike Harrington

Marty Brown became the Buffalo Bisons' modern-era leader in victories earlier this season and can reach another milestone tonight -- becoming just the seventh manager in the franchise's 128 seasons to reach 300 wins. He goes for it as the  Herd can make it three straight over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in tonight's game against the RailRiders in Coca-Cola Field.

Five of the other six managers to get to 300 -- John C. Champman, George Stallings, George Wiltse, Bill Clymer, Ray Schalk and Kerby Farrell -- were pre-1940s-era skippers. The exception was Farrell (1959-64). 

Rehab note: Right-hander Drew Hutchison gets the start tonight in his first rehab assignment at Triple-A after throwing at both Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire on the road back from Tommy John surgery. He went 75 pitches in his last outing so the hope is certainly that he could go five innings or so.

Standings: The Bisons open tonight 3 1/2 games behind Rochester in the IL North but in the lead in the wild-card chase by percentage points over Norfolk and a half-game over Pawtucket. The wild-card standings are here.

Lineup notes: Sean Ochinko caught both ends of last night's doubleheader and is in there again tonight with Mike Nickeas nursing a hairline elbow fracture. First baseman Clint Robinson is sidelined after getting hit in the thumb with an errant throw while running the bases last night.

Tonight's lineup
Mike McCoy, 3b
Anthony Gose, cf
Kevin Pillar, lf
Luis Jimenez, dh
Moises Sierra, rf
Ryan Goins, 2b
Andy LaRoche, 1b
Munenori Kawasaki, ss
Sean Ochinko, c
---
Drew Hutchison, p 

Updated: Bisons take wild-card lead with sweep

By Mike Harrington

There are 26 games left and the Buffalo Bisons would be in the playoffs for the first time since 2005 if the International League season ended today.

The Herd won its two games, 5-2 and 2-1 over Scranton, then got help as Norfolk lost in 10 innings to Gwinnett, 3-2, and last-place Syracuse swept a twinbill from reeling Pawtucket, 4-0 and 5-4.

So the wild-card standings look like this:
Buffalo 61-57 . 5169
Norfolk 62-58. 5166
Pawtucket 61-58  1 GB 

What could a wild-card berth mean? The Bisons' first playoff spot in eight years could result in the first playoff series of the modern era against the Rochester Red Wings. Remember, in the preset IL format, the wild-card team plays the North Division winner.

There are some issues on the injury front for Buffalo, however.

---Manager Marty Brown said after the sweep that catcher Mike Nickeas has non-displaced hairline fracture of the elbow suffered when he was hit by a pitch Tuesday and will try to play through the pain (swinging a bat seems like it might be difficult, however).

---Hot-hitting first baseman Clint Robinson was hit on the thumb by an errant throw and had to leave the nightcap; Brown said after the game he was having trouble gripping a bat.

---Twinbill hero Moises Sierra was getting treatment on both his elbow (running into outfield fence) and foot (hit by a pitch) after a rough fourth inning of the nightcap.

---And first baseman Luis Jimenez continues to be severely hampered by knee tendinitis. He is stuck on 16 home runs -- with none since June 29.

Herd preps for twinbill, Jays announce Hutchison gets start here Friday

Drew
Drew Hutchison is one step from a return to the big leagues. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Drew Hutchison has not thrown in the big leagues since being pulled from a start on June 15, 2012 against Philadelphia with elbow soreness and then undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. But he's getting much closer, as the parent club announced today that the right-hander will start for the Buffalo Bisons Friday night in Coca-Cola Field against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The Bisons and RailRiders are opening their series with a doubleheader tonight at 5:30. Thad Weber and Bobby Korecky are the Buffalo starters, with Korecky coming out of the bullpen for a spot start.

Hutchison began a rehab assignment on July 14 at Class A Dunedin, making three appearances there and two at Double-A New Hampshire. In 16 1/3 innings of work, he is 0-1 with a 2.76 ERA and has allowed just eight hits.

Continue reading "Herd preps for twinbill, Jays announce Hutchison gets start here Friday" »

Gomez placed on DL

By Rodney McKissic

The Buffalo Bisons, in the hunt for a playoff berth with 28 games remaining, suffered a huge blow today when they placed All-Star Mauro Gomez on the disabled list retroactive to Sunday.

To replace Gomez, the Herd activated pitcher Todd Redmond, who was optioned from the parent Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

Gomez left the Bisons' 5-3 win over Pawtucket on Saturday in the eighth inning with a strained left oblique and told The News' Mike Harrington that he expects to be out at least two weeks.

Gomez leads the International League with 28 home runs, a total that is also tied for the third most in the minors. Gomez leads the Bisons with 67 RBIs (fifth in the IL) and 46 extra-base hits (fourth). In a team-high 97 games, Gomez has averaged .243 with 17 doubles, a triple and 55 runs scored.

Redmond has pitched in six games for the Bisons this season and has a 3-1 record with a 5.06 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 26.2 innings.

Here is the starting lineup for tonight's game against Pawtucket:

Anthony Gose, cf
Kevin Pillar, lf
Ricardo Nanita, dh
Andy LaRoche, 3b
Jim Negrych, 2b
Ryan Goins, ss
Clint Robinson, 1b
Sean Ochinko, c
Mike McCoy, rf
Chien-Ming Wang, p

Herd's mandate: Start winning at home

By Mike Harrington

Want to unlock a key for the Buffalo Bisons' last 32 games? Pretty simple. Starting tonight in the opener of a key four-game set against Pawtucket, the Herd has to start winning on the road.

The Bisons are just 25-28 in Coca-Cola Field this season but 19 of the final 32 games are at home. Buffalo is 1 1/2 games behind Pawtucket in the wild-card race and none of the seven teams that are within four games of the slot have as many home contests remaining.

"I'm hoping that things turn around at the end of the year that haven't gone as you want," manager Marty Brown told me this afternoon. "You look at a guy like Mauro Gomez who hasn't hit that well at home (with 20 of his 28 home runs on the road) and you hope he starts to hit great here and everything picks up. We've had some pitching that's let us down but to me it's the fact our offense has sputtered here too much.

"We'll see how we respond. It's nice to have everything in front of you and dictate your own path. I like the fact we're in our division the whole month, so we can make or break ourselves."

Roster moves: The Blue Jays called up reliever Brad Lincoln and returned starter Todd Redmond to the Bisons, where he'll likely take over J.A. Happ's spot in the rotation. Outifelder Ricardo Nanita, who has been out since June 24, is back from a hamstring injury and in the lineup tonight with Kevin Pillar getting a rare day off.

Bleary eyes: The Bisons arrived around 4:30 a.m. from their game in Columbus -- but it took the PawSox until around 8:30 to get to Buffalo after suffering a 5-2, 15-inning loss last night at home to Norfolk. First baseman Drew Sutton was the losing pitcher in that game, throwing the final two innings with the bullpen spent

Red Sox: For all you Boston fans out there, top prospects Xander Bogaerts is batting second at short and Will Middlebrooks is batting third at third base. Veteran knuckleballer Charlie Haeger is starting tonight and 6-foot-7 right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, Boston's No. 1 pick in 2010 and a participant in this year's All-Star Futures Game, will make his Triple-A debut here tomorrow night at 6. He was 8-4, 2.95 this year at Double-A Portland.

The Bisons' lineup:

Anthony Gose, cf
Mike McCoy, rf
Jim Negrych, 2b
Mauro Gomez, dh
Clint Robinson, 1b
Andy LaRoche, 3b
Ryan Goins, ss
Ricardo Nanita, lf
Mike Nickeas, c
---
Thad Weber, p 

A rarity in recent years: Bisons open big series in August tonight

By Mike Harrington

The Bisons have been below .500 since May 1 and have been living off their franchise-record 17-7 April, but it still means year one of the Toronto Blue Jays era has brought something the New York Mets couldn't deliver: Playoff contention in August.

The Herd opens a four-game series tonight at 7 against the Pawtucket Red Sox in Coca-Cola Field and it's probably the biggest one here since the 2007 team went to the second-last day of the season in the wild-card chase. 

The Bisons are third in the wild-card standings, just 1 1/2 games behind Pawtucket and a half-game behind Norfolk. While Durham and Indianapolis have pretty well locked up the South and West Divisions, respectively, the big story for weeks in the IL standings has been resurgent Rochester. The Red Wings started the season just 2-11 and were still 20-30 in late May.

They've gone 42-23 since -- including a 20-8 mark in July -- that has them in a two-game lead in the North Division. But their staying power is a question mark with the callups of stalwarts Chris Colabello and Oswaldo Arcia to Minnesota.

The Bisons, meanwhile, had plenty to think about on their five-hour bus ride home overnight after coming within one strike of getting no-hit by four pitchers last night in Columbus. Anthony Gose's two-out single was the only plus in an 8-0 loss to the Clippers. It would have been just the second four-man no-no in the IL's 130 seasons, joining one by Rochester against Lehigh Valley in 2011. The Bisons have not been no-hit since the perfect game by Pawtucket's Bronson Arroyo in 2003.

Tonight's game is Celery Bobblehead Night and standard rules apply: Swan Street gate only and one per person to the first 3,000 fans. Does Celery win tonight's wing race in honor of the doll? Don't bet on it.

Major Advance Planning Dept: Bisons announce *2014* schedule

By Mike Harrington

The International League routinely gets its schedule for the next season done at the all-star break but teams often have issues with certain dates that need to be addressed and it traditionally gets released the final week of the season. Looks like things went well a couple of weeks ago at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Reno because the Bisons have announced their 2014 schedule today, complete with game times and even some of the major promotions.

The full schedule with times is downloadable at this link. A quick rundown:

---Opening Day is April 3 at Coca-Cola Field, a 2:05 game against Rochester. That ties the record for the earliest opener in the ballpark's history, which came when the Bisons beat Pawtucket, 10-8, on April 3, 2003 -- in a game played through sleet and 29-degree temperatures! The Bisons and Red Wings play again April 4 at 2:05, then meet April 5-6 in Frontier Field to open the Red Wings' home schedule.

---Key promotions: School Kids Day is Thursday, June 5 against Toledo (10:35 a.m.), Star Wars Night is  Saturday, June 7 against Syracuse (6:05 p.m.) and the 20th annual Independence Eve Celebration is Thursday, July 3 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (6:05 p.m.).

---Schedule breakdown: There are 11 fridaynightbash! games, one more than this season, and 32 home games will be played on a Friday, Saturday or a Sunday (44% of schedule). In addition, 44 of 72 games (61%) will be played in June, July and August.

---Longest homestands: There are a pair of 10-gamers (May 30-June 8 against Syracuse and Toledo, and July 23-August 1 against Syracuse, Lehigh Valley and Indianapolis).

---Longest road trip: June 9-19, a 10-gamer to Syracuse, Toledo and Columbus.

---The wrap-up: The home finale is Aug. 26 against Pawtucket. The schedule then finishes with two games in Scranton, two in Rochester and two in Syracuse, with the finale on Sept. 1.

---Game times: No changes there. Night games will start at 7:05 after April while Sunday and weekday afternoons go off at 1:05. Some night games with special events will begin at 6:05.

J.A. Happ gets start in Buffalo

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

Left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ will start for the Buffalo Bisons tonight, continuing his Major League Rehabilitation assignment.

The target is for 70-75 pitches for Happ with the also rehabbing Sergio Santos (right triceps strain) likely to pitch an inning in relief.

Happ has a been on the disabled list since May 8 after he was hit with a line drive in a game at Tampa Bay on May 7. He has made two rehab starts and in eight combined innings has not allowed an earned run. He has given up two unearned runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts.

Danny Salazar starts for the Clippers: While the interest is high in Happ, also of note for tonight's game at Coca-Cola Field is the start of Salazar for Columbus. On July 11, he made his Major League debut with Cleveland against, wait for it, Toronto. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in that game and struck out the side in the second as the Indians won, 4-2. He was optioned back to Columbus the next day.

Bisons Notes: Mauro Gomez remains tied with Gwinnett's Ernesto Mejia for the home run lead in the International League. Both sluggers have 26 homers this season. .. Kevin Pillar has reached base in 28 of his 29 games with the Bisons. ... Munenori Kawasaki has played nine games for the Bisons this year and has reached base 14 times. He has seven hits and seven walks for a .483 on-base percentage. 

Tonight's Bisons' Lineup:
Kevin Pillar -- CF
Munenori Kawasaki -- SS
Moises Sierra -- RF
Mauro Gomez -- DH
Clint Robinson -- 1B
Andy LaRoche -- 3B
Ryan Goins -- 2B
Sean Ochinko -- C
Anthony Gose -- LF 

 

Blue Jays rehab tour continues in Buffalo as Cabrera, Santos join Herd tonight

By Mike Harrington

Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie have already been here. Now it's time for the Bisons to host Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera and reliever Sergio Santos.

Cabrera and Santos were assigned to Buffalo on injury rehab today and are scheduled to play in tonight's series opener against Toledo at 7 p.m. in Coca-Cola Field. 

Cabrera has been on the Blue Jays' disabled list since June 27 with left knee tendinitis. He is  3 for 13 in four rehab games with Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire.  Cabrera hit .278 with 13 doubles, three home runs and 29 RBI in 78 games with the Blue Jays before the injury, and his status remains in limbo as his name has been linked to pending suspensions in baseball's Biogenesis scandal.

Cabrera was signed by the Blue Jays during the off season after hitting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs in 113 games with the San Francisco Giants. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2012 MLB All-Star Game with a two-run home run in Kansas City but didn't finish the season after earning a 50-game suspenion for use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Santos has been on the DL since April with a right triceps strain. He pitched five games in Toronto before the injury with a 2.08 ERA. He has pitched six rehab games this month in Class A after undergoing shoulder surgery last July. Santos has yet to find the form that allowed him to post 30 saves for the White Sox in 2011.

Herd plays two vs. Scranton

By Rodney McKissic

The Bisons, winners of five straight, will start Chien-Ming Wang in Game One of tonight's doubleheader against Scranton. Game Two's starter is Dave Bush. Here is the starting lineup for Game One:

Kevin Pillar, cf
Ryan Goins, ss
Jim Negrych, 2b
Mauro Gomez, dh
Andy LaRoche, 3b
Eugenio Velez, lf
Clint Robinson, 1b
Anthony Gose, rf
Sean Ochinko, c
Chien-Ming Wang, p

From Buffalo across the Pacific, Wang still going global

By Mike Harrington

Look below for an image tweeted by the Bisons of the front page of today's China Times, featuring Chien-Ming Wang and Bisons pitching coach Bob Stanley (middle). Clearly, they're talking about the Buffalo debut today of Wang, the former Yankees ace throwing in the second game of the doubleheader against Syracuse.

And here's a (very rough) translation of the story. No idea what Uncle Google is doing giving us all these Aberdeen references. 

China times

Wang makes his Buffalo debut

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

They've fallen two games under .500 but they have one afternoon to make it up.

The Buffalo Bisons host the Syracuse Chiefs for a scheduled doubleheader at Coca-Cola Field (1:05 p.m., Radio 1520, TWC).

The Bisons had been 10 games over .500 on eight different occasions this season, but have slid out of contention in the International League North Division race, sitting nine games back of first-place Pawtucket. What's gone wrong? I took a look at the numbers in today's story in The Buffalo News.

Bisons Debut for Wang: Chien-Ming Wang is scheduled to pitch Game 2 of today's doubleheader. Wang was designated for assignment to Buffalo after going 1-1 with a 7.13 ERA in five starts with the Toronto  Blue Jays, who signed him on June 9. He won 19 games in 2006 and 2007 for the New York Yankees. The press box has been an interesting place the last three Bisons home games, ever since Wang was designated for assignment, as Taiwanese media have joined the local media corps to cover Wang. 

Extra! Extra! No Jeter in the B-Lo: Derek Jeter is on his Major League rehabilitation assignment with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. And Alex Rodriguez has been transferred to Class A Tampa as he recovers from hip surgery. Scranton is headed to Buffalo next weekend. So could we see Jeter or A-Rod in Buffalo? Mike Harrington says probably not in today's Inside Baseball column.

"I should point out the Yankees rarely send rehab players on the road," Harrington writes. "They like to have control over issues like field conditions, clubhouses, security (because autograph hounds are an issue) and arrangements for press conferences. They don’t have that if a game is not being played in a home of one of their affiliates."

Bush Gets Start: Dave Bush will start Game 1 for the Herd. He leads the Bisons with seven wins and has a 4.12 ERA. In his last start, a no-decision at Charlotte on Tuesday, he strike out nine batters.

Pillar Continues to Impress: Outfielder Kevin Pillar continues to turn heads and Toronto general manager Alex Anthopolous has been in town specifically to watch him. He has 14 hits in his first 16 games at Triple-A and and has reached base safely in every contest.

Today's Game 1 Lineup:
Mike McCoy -- 3B
Ryan Goins -- SS
Kevin Pillar -- CF
Mauro Gomez -- 1B
Jim Negrych -- 2B
Andy LaRoche -- DH
Eugenio Velez -- LF
Anthony Gose -- RF
Mike Nickeas -- C 

Blue Jays cult hero Kawasaki coming back to Buffalo

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

With Jose Reyes coming off the disabled list and returning to the Toronto Blue Jays for their game today against Tampa Bay in Florida, someone had to be sent down to Triple-A Buffalo.

And the odd-man out was Munenori Kawasaki.

The 32-year-old in just his second season of professional baseball in North America not only ably held down the shortstop position while Reyes was rehabbing his injured ankle, he became one of the most popular guys in the Blue Jays clubhouse and a fan favorite with an avid cult following.

Even the Toronto reporters waxed poetic about the demotion of Kawasaki after Toronto's 5-1 loss to the Rays on Tuesday night. (Check out stories from John Lott of the National Post and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.) How important was Kawasaki's personality to the team? So much so that manager John Gibbons announced the move in front of the team with Kawasaki at his side. That's not normal.

But neither is Kawasaki. In a good way.

He started the season with the Bisons but Buffalo barely got a chance to learn to spell his name. He played in just two games with the Herd before getting the call up to Toronto after the injury to Reyes.

With Toronto, he played in 60 games, batted .225 and drove in 17 runs. Last year with Seattle he layed in 61 games. Before that, he was with Fukuoka in Japan.

But more than the stats is Kawasaki's personality. He found a way to immediately become a favorite of the players (and the fans) without speaking much English, but with clearly showing a deep love for the game.

Need an example? Check out this video of him giving a post-game interview after hitting a walk-off, two-run double against Baltimore on May 26. Trust me. You will smile for the rest of the day.

Anthopoulos: Reyes Timetable Talk

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

By Sunday, Jose Reyes should be back with the Toronto Blue Jays.

That's the word from general manager Alex Anthopoulus, who met with members of the media at Coca-Cola Field before the Buffalo Bisons game with the Durham Bulls Monday night.

Reyes is on his fourth day of Major League Rehabiliation with the Herd. He will leave the club tomorrow.

"We talk to him after every game," Anthopoulos said. "We may decide after tonight’s game or it may be after Wednesday’s game in New Hampshire. He may come in and say 'Ah, it’s a little tight, it’s a little stiff.' Maybe he needs to DH Thursday.

"New Hampshire is playing at home through Sunday. We play in Boston through Sunday. I can’t envision any scenario that would go longer than that because he’s obviously playing every day. ... I think we’re trying to keep it open."

Herd wins in 14, learns Reyes will stay another day on rehab

By Mike Harrington

The Buffalo Bisons put in a long afternoon's worth of work Sunday in Coca-Cola Field and got rewarded. Their fans get a reward too -- one more look at Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes.

Late in the Herd's 1-0, 14-inning win over the Durham Bulls, word filtered out of Toronto that the Blue Jays have finalized their plans for Reyes, their rehabbing shortstop: He will play Monday night's homestand and series finale here against the Bulls, then transfer for two days to Double-A New Hampshire.

Reyes will then be close at hand to join the Blue Jays Thursday night in Fenway Park for the opener of a key four-game series against the Boston Red Sox. He thus will not play in the Jays' three-gamer on the unfriendly turf of Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field that opens Monday night with Toronto looking for its franchise-record 12th straight win.

(6 p.m. update: Reyes will play Monday in Buffalo but Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has told Toronto reporters "we're re-evaluating daily" and has not ruled out Reyes joining the team in Tampa).

Reyes went 2 for 5 in the game as the designated hitter and was pulled for pinch-hitter Ricardo Nanita in the bottom of the 14th after catcher Mike Nickeas led off with a double. Nanita sacrificed and Durham pitcher Juan Sandoval threw the ball away for an error to allow Nickeas to end the longest scoreless game by innings in Coca-Cola Field's 26 seasons. The contest took exactly four hours to play.

Reyes has gone 5 for 13 in his three games in Buffalo and the Bisons have won all three against South Division-leading Durham, which swept the Herd in a four-gamer last month in North Carolina.  Six Buffalo pitchers combined to hold Durham to eight hits, striking out 12 and walking only one. Started Todd Redmond went six innings and Joel Carreno tossed a scoreless 14th to get the win.

Sunday's paid crowd of 10,166 pushed the three-game total since Reyes hit town to 41,360.

Gose returns to the lineup

By Rodney McKissic

Anthony Gose will start in left field and will bat ninth for tonight's game against Durham.

Gose was benched for two games for poor fielding then failing to throw the ball to the cut off man in time in the Bisons' loss to Gwinnett on Wednesday. Gose's lapse in concentrate cost the Herd two runs in the ninth inning.

Bisons manager Marty Brown said Gose's place in the battling order in the future will be determined by his performance. Gose generally hits first or second.

Brown said he spoke with Gose at length about his approach to the game on Friday.

"There's no guarantees in this game," Brown said prior to Saturday's game. "It's difficult in this day and age with the sense of entitlement, lack of accountability, it's a different game. ... It boils down to when a player has heart and goes out and plays the game the right way, then everything irons itself out."

Gose is hitting .228, with a pair of homers and 15 RBIs in 53 games for the Bisons.

Here is the starting lineup for tonight's game:

Jose Reyes, ss
Kevin Pillar, cf
Mauro Gomez, 1b
Luis Jimenez, dh
Moises Sierra, rf
Jim Negrych, 3b
Ryan Goins, 2b
Mike Nickeas, c
Anthony Gose, lf
Chad Jenkins, 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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