May 2008

Hop in, we're taking a trip

This trip feels incredibly different than the last the Bisons took. There’s a sense of confidence and character starting to show with this team that had it tucked away after a rough first month.

After finishing a Pawtucket/Scranton swing 2-5 the Bisons went home, won six of eight and picked up two of the three against Syracuse. I feel the Herd is on the brink of something big.

We’ve been sensing this team has that ability since the spring training reports. What a difference flipping the calendar can make. Back-to-back starting pitching performances from Sowers and Slocum set the table for wins against the Chiefs after they won the first five head-to-head match ups. Now the Bisons enter a series with Rochester, a team that has dropped their last six.

Make an impromptu decision, get in the car and watch the Herd on the road. Very few fans ever get to see their favorite team play wearing road grays. You do! It’s a short drive and you’ll get the opportunity to sit close to the Herd’s dugout. The players notice and appreciate the support when they glance in the stands and see Buffalo caps, jerseys and jackets.

Bring your radio – Duke is back on the air to open the series that wraps around the weekend. Hope to see you in the Flower City.

New places, new faces

Prior to this series, I’ve made two trips to Alliance Bank Stadium. The Bisons brought me here twice last year in two four-day stints to watch the Herd play the Chiefs.

The first time, the Buffalo roster was in flux with players in Cleveland coming off the disabled list, going on the disabled list and forcing the first major movement of the year. Over a three day period things were a mess (roster wise) for a club that surged to 15-6 and on the brink of taking over first place.

Pitching is where the Bisons took the biggest hit. Cliff Lee was coming off the DL and Fausto Carmona arrived in Syracuse but never appeared for the Bisons because Jake Westbrook went down and Carmona was called right back to the Big Leagues. Rafael Perez, outfielders Ben Francisco and Franklin Gutierrez were also moved about the same time to the Tribe. All this forced a couple of spot starts and rotation adjustments but Buffalo endured, split the series and kept moving forward and took first place in the division when the dust settled.

Fast forward one year. The Tribe’s roster is being shook-up again. Ben Francisco is gone for what appears to be an extended stay if he performs when given the opportunity. And as you heard on your pre-game show, Indians GM Mark Shapiro said he’ll have plenty of time on the field. But from what he said yesterday, there have to be more “adjustments” on the way.

The never-ending question of 2008: What to do with Andy Marte? He’s out of options and has barely stepped on the field. Add Shin-Soo Choo nearing a rehab assignment with Buffalo and if the Cleveland offense is still M.I.A. why not give a left-handed power bat a shot. One thing is for certain following this first wave of decisions from the deep thinkers, the Indians will make adjustments. Two weeks ago Shipiro said there won’t be a panic button until they near 60 games into the season. Also factor in, no single team has started to pull away in the AL Central. This bodes well for Buffalo if no team takes claim to the top spot and Cleveland starts to perform better.

Buffalo opened the roadtrip in Syracuse a man down on the roster but will be full strength when Bronson Sardinah arrives. The Indians signed the outfielder to a minor league contract. Sardinha, a first round pick (34th overall) of the Yankees in 2001, hit .323 (10-31) with a 2B, 3B & 5RBI in 8 games for AAA Tacoma this year after going to big league camp as a non-roster invitee with Seattle. He spent seven seasons in the Yankees system from 2001-07 and appeared in 10 games last year in the Bronx (3-9, .333, 6RS, 2RBI) and owns a minor league career batting average of .267 (839-3146).

Technically it’s the second free agent signing of the year, following Jason Stanford’s return. Last year Cleveland singed four free agents during the season: Eric Dubose, John Koronka, Scott Elarton and Russell Branyan.

As for our trip back to the Salt City, for the moment it seems as shaky as the one a year ago. But there is one thing that adds certain calmness. The simple addition of natural grass has made a cold and less than friendly structure feel much more hospitable. Now I wish the Chiefs would be as welcoming.

Off day daze

For me off days just feel strange. The last 26 days have been pretty consistent routines moving through the first month of the Bisons schedule. Then all of a sudden, this blank spot in between home games pops up. Is it an error on the printed schedule?

Nope, it’s an off day.

This is off day is different than most. Most of the time there isn’t much “off” on an off day. The majority of them are spent in a bus or airport moving from one place or the next. This one – smack dab in the middle of a homestand. Brilliant for everyone associated with the Herd.

Without hours of travel bogging you down you can set up a plan and enjoy your day off. Barbecues, a trip to the Falls, pick up the house/apartment, time to run errands and trying to scale the mountain of laundry that’s built up the past four weeks is pretty much on the list of things to do around the clubhouse. Once the day is over, then it’s back downtown to get things rolling again.

Here are a few Bisons Bits before we get underway tonight… RHP Rick Bauer has pitched scoreless baseball in 10 of his 11 outings. His 5 saves are T4th most in the International League…Jordan Brown leads the International League with 11 doubles…Jason Stanford is 0-1 with a 1.86ERA in his two games since joining the Bisons…Aaron Herr has 14RBI in his last 14 games. He leads the Bisons with 17 runs driven in… Herr and OF Brad Snyder are tied for the team lead with four homeruns.

Oh look, later in the year back-to-back off days… imagine how weird that’s going to be for everyone.