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April is the Cruellest Month

Pitching Rotation Blowup Hurts Herd’s Start

The calendar has turned to May, and yes, they are playing baseball downtown. Few people have been paying attention, mostly for two reasons: First, the Sabres extended their season into late April, and eyes and attention were focused on the ice at HSBC Arena, and second, the weather has been so dreadful that the two April homestands have drawn small crowds.

As of early this week, the Buffalo Bisons are mired in fifth place in the six-team North Division, and to no one’s surprise, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who have won five straight division titles, are already running away in the standings as they try to make it six straight.

The Bisons suffered two costly blows to their pitching rotation in the month of April. On April 10, Boof Bonser left the game early due to injury, and it was determined that he would need “Tommy John” surgery for reconstruction of the collateral ligament. He is out for the rest of the season. Just two weeks later, Jenrry Mejia left his game in Rochester after just four innings. He has a ligament tear in his elbow, and has undergone an MRI to determine if surgery is necessary. Mejia is also on the disabled list.

Opening day starter Dillon Gee is also gone via promotion, and is now playing in the bullpen for the New York Mets.

So now, manager Tim Teufel has to improvise and patch things together, and this past week the organization added some help and roster depth. Promoted from AA Binghamton is John Luhan, who spent some time on the Buffalo roster last season. In addition, the Mets signed 37-year-old journeyman Brian Sweeney, who has major league experience with the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres. On Monday, Sweeney became the tenth starter to pitch for the Bisons. And it’s only May.

On the hitting side, the Bisons have seen 2010 phenom Lucas Duda shuttle back and forth between Buffalo and the parent New York Mets. The organization got some more bad news when it learned that first baseman Russ Adams was retiring from baseball and leaving the team. “His heart just wasn’t in the game anymore,” reported Teufel.

Despite the team’s slow start, Teufel is happy with the progress of his players as the Bisons are coming around, despite some gloomy statistics which have the team close to the bottom of the league in team batting. “Our players are showing some patience at the plate and things are definitely starting to turn around,” said Teufel. Of the losses of his starting pitchers, Teufel says, “Every team goes through that sort of thing at some point. We do have some promise in the bullpen and the team just needs to make some adjustments. We should be fine.”

The Bisons did open this most recent homestand with a dramatic, come-from-behind, 6-5 victory against the Louisville Bats, plating two runs in the bottom of the ninth. “We need more of that,” said Jesus Feliciano, who provided the last inning heroics.

With spring and nice weather finally hitting Western New York, the team has hit the road again, and won’t come back until Saturday, May 21, to open their next homestand against Charlotte. Fans who have yet to visit the ballpark in 2011 will be amazed and dazzled by the new HD scoreboard, which is especially impressive at night.

Around the bases...

• Former Bisons broadcaster Jim Rosenhaus and Catcher Tony Pena will both be inducted into the Buffalo Bisons Hall of Fame on July 24. Rosenhaus now works for the Cleveland Indinas radio broadcasts, while Pena, who was one of the most prolific Bisons catchers, playing here in the late 70s for the AA squad, now is a bench coach with the New York Yankees.

• In the planning stages—a marker to commemorate the placement of the old Offermann Stadium. Buffalo Sports Museum curator John Boutet of Grand Island is taking the lead on making this happen. “I approached Councilman Joe Golombek, and he put me in touch with the Buffalo Arts Commission. They greenlighted the project and set the design standards.”

The plaque will be erected in the parking lot of the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, in the approximate location of where home plate used to be. “We’re planning some sort of dedication ceremony, and hoping to have a former Bisons player on hand who actually played at Offermann Stadium,” Boutet said. He added that the cost of the plaque and exhibit is being privately funded through individual contributions.

Taro Sez...

• Taro sends a “high five” to New York Rangers left winger and bad boy Sean Avery, who has taken a stand supporting Marriage Equality in New York State, going so far as to appear in a commercial for the Human Rights Campaign. Avery says that when the day comes, he is ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the locker room with the first NHL player who declares he is gay. Make no mistake, even in this day and age Avery’s pronouncement takes a great deal of guts. Can we find the same courage amongst just one member of the New York State Senate’s Republican Caucus? Senator Mark Grisanti, Senator Pat Gallivan? Will either one of you, or both of you, be that hero, cast that yes vote, and change the world?

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