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.

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