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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. 

Opening Night at Rogers Centre, nee SkyDome, was 25 years ago

My ticket from the first game in SkyDome. The same seat today sells for $44-$52 under the team's flexible pricing. The psychedellic wavy design was to prevent counterfeiting.


By Mike Harrington

It was 25 years ago today -- on June 5, 1989 -- that the Toronto Blue Jays played their first game in the then-SkyDome. It was a Monday night game against the Milwaukee Brewers (then in the American League, remember). The Brewers won it, 5-3, as Paul Molitor, Toronto's World Series MVP four years later, had the first at-bat and hit (a leadoff double), and Fred McGriff hit the first home run. The box score and play-by-play are here.

I was at the game in the left-field stands and remember seeing the scramble that was on to get the building open right to the last minute. There was still visible construction dusts on seats and walls, but the Blue Jays needed to open in the new park because the finale a few days earlier at Exhibition Stadium had been heavily promoted as the final game in the team's home since its 1977 debut.

Jimmy Key pitched a complete game in the SkyDome opener despite taking the loss and threw the first pitch to Ernie Whitt. They will reprise that battery before Friday night's game against St. Louis as the Blue Jays return home to celebrate the anniversary. Cheap plug alert: I'll be covering that game as Marcus Stroman gets the start against the defending NL champions.

The Sporting News has this timeline of key events in the dome's 25 years.

The Toronto Star has this retrospective, courtesy of former Jays pitcher and current broadcaster Duane Ward.

How did the building come to be named SkyDome? A bookkeeper from Wallaceburg, Ont., which is three hours away, won a name the stadium contest and has earned two free tickets for life for every event in the place.

Here's an incredible YouTube floating around that shows the construction of the building -- 2 1/2 years of work in 2 1/2 minutes. 

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

Hessman and Carnegie still tied for home run title

by Amy Moritz

The home run alert for Mike Hessman continues.

The Toeldo infielder is tied with Bisons legendary slugger Ollie Carnegie for most most home runs in the history of the International League.

Hessman, who has pre-cancerous growths removed from his face, has been dealing with some swelling in his eye. He told Buffalo News sports reporter Mike Harrington earlier this afternoon that he was hoping to be available to pinch hit today. He took ground balls and hit during batting practice at Coca-Cola Field.

Hessman played with the Herd in 2010 and has 258 home runs in the IL, tying Carnegie who played 12 seasons in Buffalo.

Meanwhile the Bisons are looking to get back on track. With Tuesday's 5-4 loss in 11 innings, the Herd fell below .500 for the first time this season.

Radhames Liz makes his Bison debut on the mound. He began the season on Buffalo's disabled list with right knee soreness. He made two starts with the Double-A Fisher Cats racking up 10 strikeouts in 8 1/3 scoreless innings.

Tonight's Bison's lineup:

Darin Mastroianni -- CF
Ryan Goins -- 2B
A.J. Jiminez -- C
Dan Johnson -- 1B
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Brett Carroll -- RF
Andy LaRoche -- DH
Munenori Kawasaki -- SS
Jonathan Diaz -- 3B


Press box nightmare: Reporter's laptop felled by foul ball in Cincy

The shattered screen of Mark Sheldon's laptop, from his Twitter feed.

By Mike Harrington

What's about the worst thing that can happen to a reporter in a press box, especially one on deadline? Easy. A laptop crash. We've all had them from time to time and usually a reboot can get you back up and running.

Then there's the issue of a foul ball. No way to get you running if you take a direct hit and veteran Mark Sheldon was such a victim Tuesday night in Cincinnati, thanks to Pablo Sandoval of the Giants. You see the picture above that Sheldon tweeted -- and has more than 1,500 RTs and favorites as of early today -- and you can watch the video evidence below.

I feel for the poor guy, but his reaction is priceless. And how about the buddy who asks him if he wants the ball like he's a 10-year-old who got drilled in the hand?!

The Reds won the game, 8-3, to push their winning streak to four and Sheldon filed his story on the game with an assist from an associate who loaned him a laptop. His quick explanation on the laptop troubles is on his blog

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

Blue Jays continue shuffle of Buffalo rotation; IL ERA leader Hendriks returns to start tonight

By Mike Harrington

The Bisons' slew of injuries to the pitching staff has resulted in yet another shuffle in the rotation, with IL ERA leader Liam Hendriks (5-0, 1.48) returning from Toronto and getting the start tonight against Toledo. The Blue Jays have also promoted Radhames Liz from Double-A New Hampshire and he will start for Buffalo on Wednesday.

Liz, who pitched 28 games for Baltimore from 2007-2009, went 8-8 last year at Double-A Portland in the Red Sox chain. Chad Jenkins has been called up to Toronto for the fourth time this season. Deck McGuire will make his third start for the Herd in Thursday's 10:35 a.m. game while the Bisons have not made a decision on Friday's starter.

Toledo slugger Mike Hessman is expected to play tonight, needing one homer to break Bisons legend Ollie Carnegie's all-time IL mark. Here's a quick Hessman quiz/primer put together by John Wagner of the Toledo Blade.

Hessman off Monday, to play Tuesday in Buffalo after removal of pre-cancerous growths

by Amy Moritz

Mike Hessman's chase of the International League home run record will take an unexpected day off today.

The slugger was not in the Toledo Mud Hen's lineup tonight as a doctor removed "pre-cancerous growths from his nose and forehead earlier in the day" according to a report from The Blade.

“In spring training the doctors told me to have it looked at, because it might be the start of skin cancer,” Hessman said in the Blade article.. “I had the appointment last Friday, and after taking a sample the doctor said it was the start of skin cancer.”

Hessman, who played for the Bisons in 2010, has 258 International League home runs. That ties the all-time record set by Buffalo Bison Wall of Famer Ollie Carnegie.

The report said that Hessman expects to be in the lineup on Tuesday when the Mud Hens open a four-game series against the Bisons in Coca-Cola Field.

Injury updates as the Bisons prepare to play the Chiefs

by Amy Moritz

First thing's first. Here's an update on the Buffalo Bisons MASH unit from Sunday's loss to Syracuse:

1. Sean Nolin. He was injured during a simulated game in the afternoon. Said manager Gary Allenson, "He's fine." Nolin has been on the disabled list since May 14 with a left groin strain.

2. Ricky Romero. The starter left the game with a leg injury. "Romero I believe has a calf issue that might keep him out a little while," Allenson said.

3. Rob Rasmussen. The reliever took a line drive off his elbow. "Rasmussen has a bruise so he’s on a day-to-day basis," Allenson said.

4. Neil Wagner. He left the game after he threw a wild pitch in the ninth inning that allowed the go-ahead run to score. Wagner had been on the disabled list with forearm tightness. "Wagner I don’t know about. Wagner I think flew to Florida there and he’s having some tests done down there,"  Allenson said.

Wagner was placed on the disabled list along with reliever John Stilson (retroactive to May 30) and outfielder Brad Glenn.

The good news for the Bisons is the return of starter Liam Hendriks (Allenson said he would start on Tuesday) and closer Bobby Koreky (available today) from stints with the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Some help is coming from Double-A New Hampshire as lefty RIchard Bleier was promoted this afternoon. Also added to the Herd's roster was outfielder Brett Carroll who came off the disabled list.

Tonight's starter is Kyle Drabek (4-4, 4.19) who is making his 11th start of the season but looking for his first win at Coca-Cola Field.

Second baseman Ryan Goins and catcher Mike Nickeas get the day off. Tonight's starting lineup:

Darin Mastroianni -- CF
Munenori Kawasaki -- 2B
Jared Goedert -- 3B
Dan Johnson -- 1B
A.J. Jimenez -- C
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Andy LaRoche -- DH
Kenny Wilson -- RF
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.

Romero tries again as Herd meets Chiefs

By Mike Harrington

The Bisons and Syracuse Chiefs meet again today on a sunny Sunday in Coca-Cola Field after splitting the first two games of their series. The Herd snapped its seasonlong four-game skid with Saturday's 5-2 win that knocked Syracuse out of first place in the IL North. Rochester now leads the division by a half-game over the Chiefs with Buffalo, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Lehigh Valley all two games back.

Ricky Romero makes his ninth start of the season on the mound for Buffalo, still trying for his first win and also trying to regain his control. Romero is 0-3, 5.71 on the season with 39 walks and 33 hits allowed in 34 2/3 innings.

He's lost his last three starts in disastrous fashion -- combining for just 10 2/3 innings and walking 21. He's making $7.5 million this year from the Blue Jays so they have to keep running him out there. But you wonder when enough becomes enough.

Mark Aichinger throws the first pitch ( Bisons Twitter photo)

Today is also the 50th birthday celebration of Bisons super fan Mark Aichinger (right). He's the robust rooter who sits behind home plate virtually every day and is well known to fans -- and to visiting teams often subject to his, um, discussions.

I noted a sign in the ballpark elevator that the family of Aichinger, the team's 1997 Joe Byron Fan of the Year, has rented a suite on the third-base side and he was on the field helping the grounds crew during its pregame work. 

Here's the Buffalo lineup:

Darin Mastroianni, cf
Ryan Goins, ss
Jared Goedert, 3b
Dan Johnson, 1b
Matt Tuiasosopo, lf
Andy LaRoche, dh
Mike Nickeas, c
Kenny Wilson, rf
Jonathan Diaz, c
Ricky Romero, p

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 look to end four-game skid

By Taylor Nigrelli

The Bisons are set take on the Syracuse Chiefs today in the second game of a four-game set today at 1:05 p.m at Coca Cola Field. Deck McGuire (1-0, 3.18) will take the start for the Bisons while Taylor Jordan (0-1, 4.67) will take the hill for Syracuse.

When Buffalo takes the field today, it will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak. The offense has been the main culprit in this slump, scoring in just five of the past 37 innings.

Friday, the Bisons dropped the first game of the series to the Chiefs, 5-4. Syracuse scored all five runs in the fourth inning as they knocked out Buffalo starter Esmil Rogers. Outfielder Darin Mastroianni shined bright in the loss, reaching base four times on two hits and two walks.

The matchup featured a twinge of controversy in the fifth inning. After being shut down for most of the early going, the Bisons appeared to be in in the early stages of a rally. First basemen Dan Johnson hit a blooper behind third base that appeared to have dropped before Zach Walters of Syracuse could snag it. However, the umpire declared Johnson out, much to the chagrin of Buffalo manager Gary Allenson.

Highly-touted Toronto prospect Marcus Stroman was originally scheduled to start Friday. However, he was scratched at some point in the afternoon under Toronto’s orders. The Blue Jays called him up to make his first career start today against Kansas City.

Today’s lineup:

CF Darin Mastroianni
SS Ryan Goins
3B Jared Goedert
1B Dan Johnson
C A.J. Jimenez
LF Matt Tuiasosopo
DH Andy LaRoche
2B Munenori Kawasaki
RF Kenny Wilson

Stroman scratched as move apparently coming from Blue Jays

By Mike Harrington

If you were coming to Coca-Cola Field tonight to see Marcus Stroman make the start in the Bisons' homestand opener, by all means still make the trip. The weather is beautiful (for once). But you won't be seeing Stroman on the hill.

The Blue Jays' top pitching prospect has been scratched from his scheduled start and Esmil Rogers is taking his place in the 7:05 series opener against Syracuse. Manager Gary Allenson did not have much information on the Stroman situation, other than to say there's no health issues for the 23-year-old. Hmmm.

The Bisons had a 4 a.m. wakeup call today for their 6:30 a.m. flight from Indianapolis and are not holding batting practice as usual. In fact, they have a late report time to the ballpark but Stroman is not here. Stroman did some long-tossing and running about 5:15 and then headed into the clubhouse.

Stroman, in fact, tweeted today about mall shopping (ostensibly at the Walden Galleria) and was not on the Bisons' flight home this morning. That would not be all that unusual that he would have come back yesterday, given that he was scheduled to go tonight. 

"I have no idea. I'm kind of on hold," Stroman told me after coming off the field. "I'm just waiting."

Stroman said agent Brody Schofield had no further information for him either, other than to tell him to hold on and see what happens.

"They told me they just wanted me in Buffalo," Stroman said. "There's been very, very little communication on it. There's a chance I might be taking a car service out of here soon to go up there but other than that, I really don't know. It's just kind of a holding pattern. I honestly have no idea."

The rotation as it stands right now for this series has Rogers followed by Deck McGuire, Ricky Romero and Kyle Drabek.

But, as Allenson wryly noted, "It's constantly changing every day."

Stroman has made two starts for the Bisons since returning from Toronto and neither was all that auspicious. He took the loss in each, allowing seven earned runs over a combined nine innings. But he continued to have a high strikeout/walk ratio with nine strikeouts and just two walks.

For the season with the Bisons, he's 2-4 in seven starts with a 3.03 earned-run average -- but has 45 strikeouts and nine walks in 35 2/3 innings.

"I'm 100 percent ready. Starting is ultimately what I want to do," Stroman said. "But whatever they need me to do is fine. It's the big leagues. I guess this is how it works. I'm still new to all this."

The Blue Jays are scheduled to start Drew Hutchison and Mark Buehrle this weekend against Kansas City. There was no indication of any issues with the Toronto rotation when manager John Gibbons met the media this afternoon. But antennas are up at both ends of the QEW for a Stroman callup. In addition, it's known the Chicago Cubs are widely interested in Stroman in any deal for ace Jeff Samardzija -- as I wrote about in Sunday's Inside Baseball column -- and that they've scouted Stroman in Buffalo at least once this season. Stay tuned.

7:15 p.m. update: Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Sportsnet's Barry Davis that Stroman is indeed in limbo pending the result of J.A. Happ's start tonight. Stroman could be needed in long relief or to start Saturday if the Jays want to go to a six-man rotation through one turn.

Rogers was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on May 23 and reported to Buffalo after clearing waivers. He pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings in his Bisons debut Monday in Indianapolis.

"Might as well see him," Allenson said. "He threw the ball pretty good the other day. Some of these guys, you get them down, they're a little rusty and stuff. It takes them a few times. He was all right. It wasn't like he was locked in like a Greg Maddux but he looked good."

The Bisons' bullpen has also taken a major hit as standout late-inning specialist Bobby Korecky had his contract purchased by the Blue Jays this afternoon. Korecky is 3-1 with five saves and an 0.29 ERA -- allowing just one run in 31 innings and striking out 32.

"That's pretty good," deadpanned Allenson. "It looks like it's hittable but apparently it's not. You don't see a lot of good swings off him."

Rob Rasmussen has returned to the Bisons from the Blue Jays, and Allenson said Neil Wagner likely gets the ball in the ninth inning. Here's the Bisons' lineup tonight:

Darin Mastroianni, cf
Ryan Goins, 2b
Jared Goedert, 1b
Dan Johnson, dh
Matt Tuiasosopo, lf
A.J. Jimenez, c
Munenori Kawasaki, ss
Kenny Wilson, rf
Jonathan Diaz, 3b
Esmil Rogers, p

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.

Hens' Hessman cracks 400th MILB home run; could break IL mark in upcoming series here

By Mike Harrington

All Mike Hessman has done in a minor-league career that dates to 1996 is hit home runs. In pretty much every stop he's made. Eleven stops in the minors -- including 18 longballs in 64 games for the Bisons in 2010 -- as well as three stops in the majors (Atlanta, Detroit, New York Mets) and even 48 games in Japan in 2011.

Hessman went deep Tuesday in the first inning of Toledo's 3-0 win over Rochester in Frontier Field and it was the 400th home run of his minor-league career. has been keeping this rotating graphic of Hessman's power numbers and now has it updated with No. 400. Here's the video of the shot, with the call by Rochester announcer Josh Whetzel, who is also the voice of University at Buffalo basketball. 

(Memo to the Rochester TV crew: Whetzel is word-picturing a great scene of teammates congratulating Hessman and Red Wings fans standing and applauding behind the dugout and you missed all of it showing replays of him jogging around the bases. Just plain terrible. You gotta be better.)

Now Hessman has another quest: He has 255 career home runs in the International League -- just three shy of all league's all-time record of 258 set by Bisons legend Ollie Carnegie (1931-41, 1945). Carnegie is one of just three players to have his number retired on the left-field wall at Coca-Cola Field.

Hessman has 12 games to go before a four-game set in Buffalo between the Bisons and Mud Hens opens here June 3. He might already have the record by then, but it would make for a pretty interesting backdrop if he was on the verge of it when he hit town. Bears watching.

More from Joe Siddall on broadcasting and the Blue Jays

Joe Siddall (right) with Jerry Howarth in the Blue Jays' radio booth. (Fox Sports Detroit)

By Mike Harrington

Be sure to read my column in Wednesday's editions on Canisius College outfielder Brett Siddall and his father, new Blue Jays radio announcer Joe Siddall, as they continue to cope with the February death of their 14-year-old brother/son, Kevin.

There are plenty of poignant thoughts in the story and Canisius will be playing with plenty of emotion during its MAAC Tournament opener against an opponent to be determined tonight in Lakewood, N.J. I talked to Joe Siddall Tuesday from Fenway Park prior to the Blue Jays' series opener against the Red Sox and made sure to get some Jays talk in as well that didn't really fit the column.

So here are the outakes of the interview, largely focused on Joe Siddall's MLB thoughts:

---Siddall said he can "talk baseball until I'm blue in the face" and was always comfortable dealing with the media as a player. He said learning the nuances of broadcasting has been a fascinating ride, especially the depth of preparation that goes into a television broadcast in areas such as pre-planned graphics. He spent five games on the last homestand working in the Sportsnet TV booth.

"It's been a comfortable transition, from the broadcasting perspective and learning tricks of the trade," he said. "I continue to bounce things off Buck Martinez, Pat Tabler, Jerry Howarth and learn things that help me get better. 

"TV is a different ballgame so to speak. It's such a big production, starting with the meeting during the day, so you're prepared for the show opening and the graphics you'll be discussing during the game. It's really neat. I joked after my five days that I will certainly watch a game on TV differently now because now you know what went in to all the things. A really cool experience."

On legendary Jays announcer Howarth: "It's been great working with him since day one. He's been that right-hand guy to give me tips and pointers and it's helped our broadcast. The No. 1 thing Jerry has taught me is to have fun. When you're in the booth, have fun, joke, laugh, talk baseball. That's what people want to hear."

The Blue Jays in the AL East --  "They're hanging in because everybody has issues, all these teams are struggling. We're here in Boston and here's a team coming off the World Series that's struggling and not consistent whatsoever. The Blue Jays' lineup is tremendous."

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista -- "He's special. I worked batting practice with the Tigers for 12 years and worked with Miguel Cabrera every day. Imagine what that's like. Maybe Jose isn't Miguel Cabrera but he's just about the same type of player every time out. He's had tremendous discipline here. When Edwin Encarnacion was scuffling, Jose didn't try to do too much and he contributed offensively."

Jose Reyes as an X-factor guy: "He seems to be coming along. If he gets on base consistently, he would score so many runs. The lineup is so deep with power that if Reyes gets on base, it's really going to be tough. What's really going to be the big factor is the pitching. They have to solidify that. And who doesn't say this, but it would sure be nice to have one more solid big-league starter."

Red-hot Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle: "I can't not laugh answering a question about him. I have to chuckle. The way he does it is unbelievable. It should inspire every kid in the minor leagues who throws 84 mph. He locates so well. You do that it doesn't matter if it's at 84 or 94. He changes speed, moves it in and out. He's a classic pitcher...He's good at his craft."

Pujols Twitter
From left, Canisius teammates Anthony Massicci, Brett Siddall and Connor Panas pose with Albert Pujols of the Angels last week in Toronto. (Joe Siddall Twitter photo)
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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 |

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 |