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Bisons doubleheader starts at noon

by Amy Moritz

It's a beautiful day for a doubleheader. At least when it warms up a bit this afternoon.

The Buffalo Bisons and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders will play two seven-inning games start at noon at Coca-Cola Field. The twinbill makes up one of the games from earlier in the homestand when wet grounds and snow forced postponements.

Ricky Romero gets the start in the first game making his second start of the season. Romero allowed three runs in four innings of a no-decision last week in Lehigh Valley. Last year the lefty won five games for the Herd, striking out 81 batters in 22 starts.

Kyle Drabek will start the second game. He is 1-0 in two starts, picking up his first win April 11 against Pawtucket where he gave up three runs on seven hits with five strikeouts in five innings of work.

Anthoy Gose is expected to be promoted by the Toronto Blue Jays today for their doubleheader in Minnesota. The expectation is that he will play the second game and be returned to the Bisons.

The starting lineup for the Bisons in Game 1:

Chris Getz -- 2B
Steve Tolleson -- 3B
Juan Francisco -- DH
Dan Johnson -- 1B
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Kevin Pillar -- CF
Ricardo Nanita -- RF
Kevin Nolan -- SS
Mike Nickeas -- C

Finally time to play ball as Stroman gets start for the Herd

by Amy Moritz

After two days of bad weather, the Buffalo Bisons will finally get the chance to host the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders. And finally Marcus Stroman gets to take the mound.

Stroman was the Opening Day starter for the Herd, giving up two runs on four hits in a no-decision. He was a hard-luck loser on April 9 in Lehigh Valley.

That start was the second game of a doubleheader. The first game went to extra innings and Stroman didn't get to the mound until 10 p.m. He pitched a complete seven-inning game but took the 1-0 loss when the winning run scored on a passed ball. He struck out eight, walked five and gave up three hits in that outing.

Getting his first start with the Herd tonight is catcher Erik Kratz. The three-time International League ALl-Star was optioned by Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

Tonight's Bisons' lineup:

Chris Getz -- 2B
Steve Tolleson -- SS
Juan Francisco -- 3B
Dan Johnson -- DH
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Kevin Pillar -- CF
Jared Goedert -- 1B
Erik Kratz -- C
Brett Carroll -- RF

Kawasaki, Happ return to the Blue Jays

by Amy Moritz

While the weather has wrecked havoc with the Buffalo Bisons schedule, the roster moves continued on Tuesday afternoon.

The Toronto Blue Jays purchased the contract of shortstop Munenori Kawasaki and activated pitcher J.A. Happ from his Major League Rehabilitation Assignment.

To make room on their roster, the Blue Jays optioned catcher Erik Kratz to the Bisons. Toronto also announced today that Jeremy Jeffress cleared waivers and has been outrighted to the Bisons. Also announced was that Buffalo pitcher Marcus Walden has been designated for assignment.

The promotion for Kawasaki comes after Toronto's Maicer Izturis suffered a complete tear of his lateral collateral ligament. Typical recover time for the tear is four to six months although the 33-year old is reportedly seeking a second opinion before scheduling the surgery.

In eight games with the Bisons, Kawasaki hit .240 with a doubel and an RBI.

Happ returns to the Blue Jays after making one start for the Herd on Thursday. He struck out six, gave up one run on five hits in a no-decision to Pawtucket.

Kratz played six games with the Blue Jays, batting .200 with a home run and four runs batted in. He is a three-time International League All-Star, winning the honor with Indianapolis (2009) and Lehigh Valley (2010, 2011).

Jeffress pitched in 25 games for Buffalo last season gong 1-0 with a 1.65 earned run average and seven saves. He threw in three games for the Blue Jays this year giving up four runs in 3 1/3 innings.

Walden is 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA in three games with the Bisons this year.


Bisons once again postponed

by Amy Moritz

Winter weather has postponed Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader between the Buffalo Bisons and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. It's the second straight day the Herd's games at Coca-Cola Field have been scrapped with bad weather conditions.

The teams will play a single game on Wednesday at 6:05 p.m. with a single-admission doubleheader starting at 12:05 p.m. Thursday at Coca-Cola Field. Gates will open at 11:30 a.m. Fans already holding tickets to Thursday's game can use them for admission to both.

The second game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Wednesday, July 2. That doubleheader will begin at 5:35 p.m.

Fans holding tickets for tonight's game can exchange them for a comparable ticket to any future Bisons game with the exception of special events. All ticket exchanges must be made at the Coca-Cola Field box office and can be done anytime during the 2014 season.


Bisons-Scranton postponed, will play two on Tuesday

By Rodney McKissic

Rain and cold temperatures have forced the Herd to postpone their game tonight against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The game will be part of a single-admission doubleheader beginning at 5:05 p.m. Tuesday at Coca-Cola Field. Fans already holding tickets to the game on Tuesday can use their ticket for admission to both games.

Fans holding tickets to tonight’s game can exchange them for a comparable ticket to any future Bisons game this season excluding special events. All ticket exchanges must be made at the Coca-Cola Field Box Office. These exchanges do not have to be made today.

Fans with tickets can exchange them throughout the remainder of the 2014 season.

The Herd’s Marcus Stroman (0-1) was scheduled tonight against Scranton’s Chase Whitley (0-1) but it hasn’t been determined if Stroman’s start will be pushed back until Tuesday. Stroman is coming off the first complete game of his pro career but was the loser in a 1-0 defeat to Lehigh Valley in the second game of a doubleheader last Wednesday. Stroman fanned eight in the loss and allowed just one unearned run on three hits. He has posted a 1.80 ERA in his first two Triple-A starts.

Ricky Romero (0-0) is slated to pitch Tuesday against Graham Stoneburner (0-0).

Bisons conclude four-game set with PawSox

By Rodney McKissic

The Bisons, tied with Rochester atop the IL North Division, will close out a four-game series with visiting Pawtucket today at 1:05 p.m. Sean Nolin (1-0) takes the hill for the Herd against the PawSox's Allen Webster (1-1). Here is the starting lineup for today's game:

Anthony Gose, CF
Steve Tolleson, 2B
Juan Francisco, 3B
Dan Johnson, 1B
Kevin Pillar, RF
Chris Getz, DH
Brett Carroll, LF
Jack Murphy, C
Munenori Kawasaki, SS
Sean Nolin, P


Hendriks leads Bisons to a 3-2 win

by Amy Moritz





A solid outing from Liam Hendriks gave the Buffalo Bisons a 3-2 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox in front of 5,692 at Coca-Cola Field Saturday afternoon.

Hendriks threw 5 2/3 shutout innings giving up just one hit with four strikeouts. Though he issued no walks, it took the lefty some time to warm into the game. He had a 23-pitch first inning. But things got progressively better. He threw 18 in the second then needed just seven pitches in the third and fourth innings to retire the side.

The offensive support for Hendriks started in the third.  Mike Nickeas led off with a single and moved to second a sacrifice bunt from Munenori Kawaski. With two outs Nickeas scored on a single to left by Steve Tolleson.

The led extended to 2-0 in the fourth when Matt Tuiasosopo drew a one-out walk and scored when Kevin Pillar split the gap in right field with a screaming line drive good for a triple. Pillar scored on a single from Jared Goedert to make it 3-0.

The PawSox got back in the game in the eighth when Dan Butler drove a fullcount pitch off the left field foul pole for a two-out two-run home run. That cut the Herd’s lead to 3-2.

The teams meet again at 1 p.m. Sunday with lefty Sean Nolin (1-0, 1.59 ERA) scheduled to start for the herd against righty Allen Webster (1-1, 2.79).

Hendriks gets the start for the Herd ... finally

by Amy Moritz

Finally, Liam Hendriks makes his scheduled start as the Buffalo Bisons host the Pawutcket Red Sox at 1 this afternoon in Coca-Cola Field.

The left-hander has made two relief appearance for the Bisons throwing two innings of shutout ball each time. His scheduled start in the rotation had been rained out.

Hendriks was claimed off waivers from Baltimore by the Toronto Blue Jays in February. Last season he was on the Opening Day roster with the Minnesota Twins and was optioned to Rochester after two starts. He missed 37 games while on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation from May 12 to June 19.

Also of note for the Herd is outfielder Anthony Gosde who has started the season on a six-game hitting streak. He his batting .320 with a .433 on-base percentage this season.

This afternoon's Bisons' lineup:

Anthony Gose -- CF
Steve Tolleson -- 2B
Juan Francisco -- DH
Dan Johnson -- 1B
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Kevin Pillar -- RF
Jared Goedert -- 3B
Mike Nickeas -- C
Munenori Kawasaki -- SS

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

By Mike Harrington

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

Some quick numbers on the Herd thus far:

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

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

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

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

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

The Bisons' lineup tonight:

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

Allenson on the rehab outing of J.A. Happ as the Bisons lose, 7-4

by Amy Moritz

It wasn't a great spring for J.A. Happ. His numbers were just plain bad -- 16 runs on 21 hits in seven innings over four starts.

Then he started the season on the disabled list with lower back tightness.

In his second Major League Rehabilitation start Thursday night, he pitched well, throwing 90 pitches over 4 2/3 innings for the Buffalo Bisons. He took a no-decision in the Herd's 7-4 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox at Coca-Cola Field.

Happ gave up one run (a solo homer) on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts. It was a positive outing but Bisons' manager Gary Allenson sees room for improvement namely throwing more breaking balls and shortening the number of pitches he throws each inning.

"He was pretty good," Allenson said. "It was much better than spring training. ... One of the reps on him is he throws too many pitches per inning … you know what I’d like to see him do a little more there? He got ahead for the most part. He got a few guys to chase the high fastball with two strikes. I’d like to see him bounce a breaking ball every now and then.  

"I saw him pitch once maybe twice," in spring training Allenson said. "I think tonight he was just more aggressive in the strike zone. We like to call pitching to early contact but the pitch count went up when they were fouling balls off. There was a guy who had a 10-11 pitch at-bat right when he was rolling along too. Obviously it was positive. Pitched well. Pitched well enough to win."

Happ was working with a 95-pitch limit and while ideally that would take him into the sixth inning, the Pawtucket hitters were able to stay alive by fouling balls off. The one at-bat that stuck in Allenson's mind was the 10-pitch walk to Alex Hassan after Happ got ahead 0-2.

Still, it was a 1-1 score when Happ left. That's when the Herd suffered a letdown. The bullpen entered the game with a 1.16 earned run average but Marcus Walden gave up four runs, John Stilson gave up one and Richard Bleier gave up one as the PawSox took control of the game.

Walden was just activated after being optioned by Toronto while Stilson was just returned after his grandmother passed away.

"Walden went up but he didn’t pitch so I’m sure he was little rusty," Allenson said. "He doesn’t usually throw the sinker letter high and he was doing that tonight. Stilson’s been gone. His grandmother passed away. Sooner or later we’ve got to get guys ready to be out there on a regular basis there. We kinda took one tonight. Just one of them things."

Happ gets rehab start for the Bisons

by Amy Moritz

Lefty J.A. Happ gets the start for the Buffalo Bisons tonight as the Herd opens an eight-game homestand at Coca-Cola Field hosting the Pawtucket Red Sox.

This is Happ's second start of his Major League rehabilitation assignment after going on the Toronto Blue Jays' disabled list at the end of spring training with lower back tightness. His first rehab start was on April 5 with Single-A dunedin where he allowed two runs in five innings with five strikeouts.

He made three starts with the Bisons last year during his rehabilitation from a skull fracture and sprained knee he suffered after taking a line drive to the head in Tampa Bay on May 7.

The Bisons, who are 4-1 and in first place in the International League North, have had solid pitching to start the season. The team's earned run average is 2.25 while the bullpen has posted a 1.16 ERA in 23 1/3 innings of work this season.

Tonight's starting lineup for the Bisons:

Anthony Gose -- CF
Steve Tolleson -- 2B
Juan Francisco -- 3B
Dan Johnson -- DH
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Jared Goedert -- 1B
Kevin Pillar -- RF
Mike Nickeas -- C
Munenori Kawasaki -- SS

Bisons-Red Wings postponed

Today’s Bisons-Red Wings game has been postponed because of rain.

The team will play a doubleheader on June 21 with the first of two seven-inning games beginning at 5:35 p.m. Fans holding tickets for today’s game can exchange them for a comparable ticket to any future game this season excluding special events. All ticket exchanges must be made at the Coca-Cola Field Box Office.

For more information regarding the exchange policy, please visit or contact the team at 716-843-4373.

Rains pushes back Bisons' start

Rodney McKissic

Rain is coming down heavily at Coca-Cola Field which puts today's Bisons-Rochester Red Wings game in jeopardy. The Herd won their season opener over the Red Wings on Thursday, 6-3, and will play two more against the Wings in Rochester this weekend. Here's the starting lineup for today’s game:

Anthony Gose, CF
Chris Getz, 2B
Kevin Pillar, RF
Dan Johnson, 1B
Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
Andy LaRoche, 3B
Ricardo Nanita, DH
Mike Nickeas, C
Munenori Kawasaki, SS
Ricky Romero, P



Bisons grab Opening Day win

by Amy Moritz

The Buffalo Bisons kicked off the 2014 season with a 6-3 win over the Rochester Red Wings at Coca-Cola Field Thursday afternoon.

A crowd of about 8,000 (announced 11,052) watched the Herd take an early lead and hold on for their third straight Opening Day win.

The Herd started their offense with two outs in the first inning. Matt Tuiasosopo singled followed by Dan Johnson drawing a walk. A single from Andy LaRoche scored one and a blooper on the left field line from Chris Getz gave the Bisons the early lead.

After Jared Goedert drew a walk to load the bases, Mike Nickeas singled to drive in two more runs and give the Bisons a 4-0 lead.

The Red Wings got a pair back in the second taking advantage of a leadoff walk and single. With two outs a broken-bat single to shallow right from Darin Mastroianni cut the lead to 4-2.

The Bisons scored in the second when Anthony Gose led off with a double and moved to third on a ground out by Kevin Pillar. Tuiasosopo hit a high popup to third base but the ball was caught in the wind and there was a miscommunication between Rochester’s third baseman and shortstop. The ball dropped and shortstop Danny Santana was charged with an error on the throw home allowing Gose to score.

The lead stretched to 6-2 in the sixth when Gose scored on a two-out single from Tuiasosopo.

Marcus Stroman was solid in his first Triple-A start, giving up two runs on four hits in four innings with a walk, four strikeouts and one hit batter. He had good movement on his pitches and threw in the mid 90s.

Liam Hendricks, who pitched the fifth and sixth innings, picked up the win while Neil Wagner got the save.

The teams will play again at 2:05 Friday at Coca-Cola Field.

Happy Opening Day!

by Amy Moritz

It's Opening Day in the minor leagues and the Buffalo Bisons begin the 2014 season by hosting the Rochester Red Wings this afternoon at Coca-Cola Field.

Marcus Stroman gets his first Opening Day start in professional ball. Listed at 5-9, Stroman is in his second season of pro ball after playing three years at Duke. His height has always been an issue and his best work comes when he pitches with a chip on his shoulder as he explained in today's game advance.

It's the Bisons debut for manager Gary Allenson, who guided the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats last year.

The Opening Day roster for the Herd features 16 players who played in the Major Leagues last season.

Today's starting lineup for the Bisons:

Anthony Gose -- CF
Kevin Pillar -- RF
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Dan Johnson -- 1B
Andy LaRoche -- 3B
Chris Getz -- 2B
Jared Goedert -- DH
Mike Nickeas -- C
Munenori Kawasaki -- SS

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

By Mike Harrington

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

Great stuff.

Ben Wagner kicks off the 2014 season.

Looking back at Bisons' home openers

By Mike Harrington

ST. LOUIS -- I won't be at Coca-Cola Field today as I'm here in the shadow of the Gateway Arch chasing Ryan Miller and Jake McCabe in the same downtown where I spent plenty of time last October. I'm also apparently going to be dodging tornadoes all day too. Yeesh.

Much better back home for today's Bisons home opener, which will be just the second one in Coca-Cola Field's 27 seasons that I have missed. Strangely enough, the other one was also on April 3 -- in 2003, while I was covering Carmelo Anthony-led Syracuse in the Final Four with New Orleans.

The Bisons are 16-10 in CCF openers and have won three of the last four. Amazingly enough, they have scored 12 runs in each of the last two home openers, posting a 12-3 win over Scranton in 2012 in their final year as a Mets affiliate and a 12-7 win last year over Rochester in their debut with the Blue Jays. That's some un-Sabres-like offense there! 

Those games were certainly fun and there's been plenty of good moments in the curtain-raisers downtown. Here's a quick flip through my mind of some of the most interesting moments, with links to stories. (No link to the first one, unfortunately, as our electronic system dates to 1989).

April 14, 1988 -- Buffalo 1, Denver 0. There is no other comparison. The parade, the ceremonies on Swan Street, the first pitch, the home run by Tom Prince, the near no-hitter by Bob Patterson. We will never feel the way we did that day. Somebody, bless your heart, has a great YouTube posted of it all. Relive it here.

April 8, 1993 -- Buffalo 8, Omaha 1. It was my first opener as the paper's No. 1 beat writer covering the team and the first year I went to spring training. I reveled in 80-degree weather in Florida and it was perfect here too. It was 76 and sunny. Best weather day we've ever had for an opener. 

April 10, 1998 -- Buffalo 4, Rochester 0. The Herd's return to the International League was delayed a day by rain and so was the team's 1997 American Association championship banner ceremony but the game was just about perfect. Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famers Torey Lovullo and Richie Sexson both homered.

April 12, 2000 -- Buffalo 6, Ottawa 2. An otherwise nondescript game is made memorable by a 42-minute delay in the fifth inning when a heavy snow squall hits the ballpark while Chan Perry is trying to bat. "I had two snowflakes hit me in the eye in five pitches," Perry said. "It was just like you had five million mosquitoes or gnats, whatever you want to choose, coming straight at your face. It was horrible."

April 3, 2003 -- Buffalo 10, Pawtucket 8 as Jody Gerut tells Amy Moritz of ice in his hat and cleats. The coldest opener ever was played through sleet and 29-degree temperatures. And the next SIX days were all postponed by winter weather. The one I missed was pretty bizarre.

April 11, 2008 -- Toledo 4, Buffalo 1.  A rainy and warm Friday night is made more significant by the fact the Cleveland Indians announce they're not discussing an extension of the working agreement until after the season. It pretty much sealed the fact they were leaving for Columbus after the season.

From The News' archives: From Pilot Field to Coca-Cola Field


Photo gallery: Images of Buffalo's downtown ballpark

News articles and columns:

Video: Bisons Opening Day starter Marcus Stroman

Stroman named Bisons Opening Day Pitcher

by Amy Moritz

The Buffalo Bisons headed back to Western New York Monday after breaking spring training camp in Florida. And the first order of business was completed -- set the Opening Day roster.

Manager Gary Allenson named righty Marcus Stroman as the Herd's Opening Day starter. The Bisons begin the season at 2:05 p.m. Thursday against the Rochester Red Wings at Coca-Cola Field.

The 22-year-old Stroman is ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization by Baseball America. He begins his third professional season after being selected by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Last season, Stroman went 9-5 with a 3.30 earned run average in 20 games for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Casts.

The Opening Day roster for the Herd (pending any call-ups to Toronto, which opened its season on Monday), features 17 players with Major League experience.

Stroman leads a deep pitching staff that includes lefty Sean Nolin, righty Kyle Drabek, lefty Ricky Romero and righty Liam Hendriks in the starting rotation.

The bullpen is anchored by closer Neil Wagner along with Josh Stilson, Mickey Storey, Chad Jenkins, Marcus Walden, Rob Rasmussen and Ryan Tepera.

Kevin Pillar, the No. 20th rated prospect, returns to the Bisons. He won the Blue Jays' Webster Award for 2013, presented to the club's top minor league player. Pillar made his big league debut last season after batting .200 with 27 extra-base hits in 52 games with the Bisons last season.

Also returning to the outfield is Anthony Gose who led the heard with 64 runs scored and five triples. The outfield includes Matt Tuiasosopo, Brett Carroll and Ricardo Nanita.

Dan Johnson will make his Bisons debut in the infield and was the International League MVP in 2010. He has 20 or more home runs four times in the IL.

Andy LaRoche returns after driving in 51 runs for the Herd last season while Munenori Kawaski returns at shortstop.

Chris Getz spent most of last season with the Kansas City Royals while the infield will also feature Jared Goedert and Jonathan Diaz.

Cathcer Mike Nickeas will play in his sixth straight season with the Bisons, tying a modern era record set by Jason Cooper. Jack Murphy will make his Triple-A debtu behidn the plate. He hit 11 doubles and drove in 22 runs in 56 games for New Hamsphire last year.

It's MLB Preview Day: All the links to our coverage

By Mike Harrington

Our annual MLB Preview is in today's newspaper and the print edition features some great photos and graphics under the direction of design director Vince Chiaramonte, as well as a terrific cover illustration from Daniel Zakroczemski on the Yankees once again going all-in with their style of Moneyball.

Here are links to all of our coverage from today's paper (And be sure to look for our Bisons season preview in Wednesday's editions in advance of Thursday's season opener in Coca-Cola Field):

Jerry Sullivan on the Bronx Bombers: "Baseball is always more fun when the Bronx Bombers are spending like sailors and rattling the cages of the other owner"

My Preseason MLB Power Rankings: The defending champion Red Sox  get to start on top but it might be a capital offense if you don't read this story. That might give you a hint who I like come October. 

Bucky Gleason's view: There's peace in the game as we head into Derek Jeter's final season.

Jay Skurski's Fantasy report:  Watch out when picking third basemen or shortstops.

Greg Connors' Mixed Media: A data journalist speaks on analytics.

Sullivan's preseason picks

Harrington's preseason picks

Ex-Bisons GM Billoni proposes prayer for Kelly at noon on Sunday

By Mike Harrington

Mike Billoni, the former Bisons general manager and current public & community relations director at the Food Bank of WNY, is spreading this message via various social media accounts regarding Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. The heartfelt words of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer are certainly worth a read.

"Twenty-one years ago when I was the Vice President/General Manager of the Buffalo Bisons professional baseball team, Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly came into my hospital room at ECMC with an official game ball that the players had voted on for me after their win at Rich Stadium the day before. I was in serious pain after 17 hours of surgery in the trauma unit after my near fatal bicycle accident in Canada.

"Jim said to me, 'Continue to pray and Positive Thoughts Equal Positive Results' -- a mantra I have followed throughout my life. Now, 21 years later, I am proof the power of prayer works. Now, we all must get behind our beloved Hall of Fame quarterback and pray that chemotherapy and radiation treatments can sack his cancer.

"I have an idea.

"Can you all join me in spreading the word that at 12 noon on Sunday, March 30, I would like everyone to stop what they are doing for a moment of prayer for Jim Kelly?

"Imagine, if everyone could send this message to everyone you know, we could possibly get the entire world to stop and say a prayer for JK at noon on Sunday.

"Thank You.

"Mike Billoni

"P.S. RIP Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.--you will be missed."

Video: White Sox unveil wild ballpark food offerings

By Mike Harrington

I know plenty of people heading to Wrigley Field in Chicago this summer to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Friendly Confines (True confessions: I'm one of them). But it seems like a detour to U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox, should also be in order based on the calorie-busting items being served this summer.

Here's the team's story on the new offerings. Mac and cheese as a hamburger topping and chicken and waffles fir everybody!

Watch this CSN Chicago video to see some of the outrageous new food items being served on the South Side this season.

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

By Mike Harrington

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

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

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

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

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

Bisons' statement on Ralph Wilson

By Mike Harrington

The Buffalo Bisons have issued the following statement on the death of Ralph Wilson:

"The Buffalo Bisons organization and family extends our deepest heartfelt sympathies to everyone within the Buffalo Bills family over the passing of team owner and Western New York sports icon Ralph Wilson. Mr. Wilson has meant so much to our sporting community and his leadership and dedication to the greatest sports fans in the country is something that will surely be missed. A great advocate of Buffalo sports, we are deeply saddened to hear of his passing."

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

By Mike Harrington

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic video rant: Olbermann eviscerates Bonds

By Mike Harrington

You can say anything you want about Keith Olbermann and you would probably have a point. But the one thing you can't argue is the guy is passionate about baseball. He's written some interesting essays and blogs for and you have to watch this commentary he unleashed this week on ESPN2 about Barry Bonds' return to the Giants as a spring training instructor and how the team has "sanitized" his history.

Olbermann pretty much eviscerates Bonds. And even if you think some of it is over the top, it's surely entertaining.

Some samples:

---The Giants are acting "as if he were one of baseball's most noble assets and not the symbol of its worst crisis and darkest time since the Black Sox scandal."

---"You cheated the game. You dishonored the game. The game has been better off with you forgotten, with you in the wilderness, with your statistics as meaningful as video game numbers."

---"Barry Bonds is a liar, a cheat, a shame to this sport and all sports and to this country. That the San Francisco Giants, an otherwise enlightened organization that cherishes its history and its reputation, should not merely embrace this pariah, but pave over his self-disqualifying dishonesty, is incomprehensible."

Watch the whole diatribe here. Quite entertaining.

Video of catch of the season -- on the first day of spring training!

By Mike Harrington

It's freezing outside and it's freezing inside the First Niagara Center as I get set for tonight's Sabres-Bruins game. I'm also five days away from heading to Florida to cover the Sabres' trip there -- but while they're in Dallas on Monday I'll be at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa watching the Yankees and Nationals.

So anything to get some baseball out of my system on a freezing cold day, I present this to you:

The Catch of the Year competition is over. On the first day of play in the Cactus League.

Oakland right fielder Josh Reddick did it with this incredible Spiderman act on the right field wall against Mike Morse of the Giants today in Scottsdale. You cannot be serious about this one. An Instagram user (JLaff21) got a copy of the video iff MLB Network because the game was not televised.

The A's have now released a view that includes the crowd reaction and the San Francisco Chronicle has posted it.

Check them out below: 

Bisons to unveil new message boards, sound system on Opening Day at Coca-Cola Field

Cropped herd board
Depiction of new Coca-Cola Field message board, featuring game score, batter information, out of town scores and time clock. (

By Mike Harrington

The Buffalo Bisons announced roughly $500,000 in improvements to Coca-Cola Field today, with a new sound system to replace the dated version that has been in house since the ballpark's 1988 opening and the installation of new LED message boards on the facing of the club level down both baselines.

Both features will be ready for Opening Day, April 3 against the Rochester Red Wings.

The 120-speaker Distributed Sound System was approved and funded by the city's Capital Program to replace the centralized sound system that had been in place. It has a price tag of over $300,000 and will send music and public address sound throughout the park much more evenly than in the past. Speakers used to be only located in the center field scoreboard and weather, especially wind, impacted the sound quality. The new system has just three speakers in the scoreboard and the other 117 around the park.

The Bisons are footing the roughly $225,000 bill for the LED boards, which will be 50 feet long and 2 1/2 feet high. They will also take care of a major pet peeve I've always had: The score not being on display between innings because it comes off the center field board. The boards will feature real-time game statistics and out of town scores. 

"Providing the absolute best ballpark experience has always been our number one goal and these two additions are great compliments to the action on the field," Jonathan A. Dandes, President of Rich Baseball Operations, said in a statement issued by the team. "The sound system will allow us to reach every fan in the ballpark with crisp and clear music and public address announcements, while the new message boards will be loaded with timely statistical and player information to enhance the baseball experience."

The Jeter announcement: Quick thoughts on his retirement

Derek Jeter will call it a career after this season. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

So I was in a meeting this afternoon when the news came out about Derek Jeter's Facebook post heard 'round the baseball world. This is going to be it for the Yankees captain. The 2014 season will be his final season in pinstripes. Here's what's going through my mind right now:

The Decision: It seems like it's time. Jeter will make $12.5 million this year in the final year of his deal and it seems like the Yankees would be loathe to pay him big money again, as he will turn 41 by the 2015 season. Who knows how he'll be this year in the wake of last season's injuries. Early reports from his Florida workouts have been encouraging. But this is still mid-February.

The memories: I've been pretty fortunate to be in the house for a lot of great Jeter moments. Way back in April, 1996 at then-Jacobs Field in Cleveland, I covered his first Opening Day and his first big-league home run. From a crazy night during the 2001 World Series, I can report old Yankee Stadium shook when his "Mr. November" home run won Game Three against Arizona.

Bud Speaks: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has just issued a statement on Jeter's announcement that reads: "In the 21-plus years in which I have served as Commissioner, Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter. Since his championship rookie season of 1996, Derek has represented all the best of the National Pastime on and off the field. He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his -- or any -- era. 

“Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport. Major League Baseball looks forward to celebrating his remarkable career throughout the 2014 season.”

The Farewell Tour: I was wondering if the reserved Jeter did not want a public retirement so he wouldn't have a Rivera-style farewell tour. Here's hoping he liked what he saw last season because that's what's going to happen at every stop. And Selig's statement certainly means some sort of ceremony at the All-Star Game in Minneapolis and likely the World Series as well. Just as was done for Mariano last year.

The Core Four & A-Rod: Jeter is the last one standing after last year's retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Strangely enough, this decision ensures he will never play with Alex Rodriguez again either. A-Rod, of course, is suspended for this season and Jeter would be retired when he comes back in 2015.

The videos: What will we see replayed the most this season? The Jeter Flip in 2001 against Oakland? The "Mr. November" home run? The dive into the stands behind third base to catch that foul ball against the Red Sox?

The schedule: The Yankees open the season April 1 in Houston. After that, they come to Toronto for three games to open the Blue Jays' home schedule April 4-5-6. Jeter's final home opener in the Bronx will be April 7 against the Orioles. His last home game will also be against the Orioles, on Sept. 25. And his last regular season game will come, in all places, at Fenway Park on Sept. 28.

Up-close looks for WNY fans: In addition to the April series listed above, the Yankees are also in Toronto June 23-24-25, and Aug. 29-30-31. This is a very rare season where they don't play in Rogers Centre in September. They have a four-game set in Cleveland July 7-8-9-10.

Destination Cooperstown: Jeter will become eligible for the Hall of Fame class of 2020. With Mariano Rivera lined up for 2019, those are going to be back-to-back wild weekends in Cooperstown.

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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 |