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Former Bisons Leading the Charge in The Big Apple

New energy on the team as Mets hit .500

There were plenty of Buffalo Bisons in the lineup this past weekend as the New York Mets entered their “Subway Series” against their crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees. The Mets only managed to take one of the three games against the Yanks, but flipping on the game and checking out the lineup, it was hard not to notice the familiar Buffalo faces and names.

There was R. A. Dickey on the mound, rediscovering his famed knuckleball, as he surrendered just four hits to the Yankees in a 2-1 win for the Mets on Friday night. Dickey has had a dreadful season, but you wouldn’t have known it watching him perform his magic last week. Dickey was resolute in saying that his “fast” knuckleball, the one that sails 77-80 miles per hour, works the best, and the one that he throws about 70 percent of the time.

Dickey is just one piece of the turnaround that the Mets are now experiencing, as two other names familiar to Buffalo fans make their presence felt. Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee both pitched shutouts against the Washington Nationals.

On the offensive side, there were Bisons prospects Justin Turner, Josh Thole, Jason Pridie and now Fernando Martinez in the lineup squaring off against the high-priced Yankees lineup. In fact, Turner went three for four in the opener.

Just about everyone agrees that it is the infusion of young talent from Buffalo which has invigorated the Mets, who at one point were dead last in Major League Baseball, but have since bounced back to flirt with the .500 mark, although they have a long way to go in the hot National League East Division.

Bisons manager Tim Teufel says that the guys who are playing on the big stage now are there because they deserve to be there. “They practice hard, they are the ones who get all the credit. They put the time and the effort in…without their effort their willingness to grind out the game of baseball, they don’t get a chance to be on the big stage. Those guys have a lot of character and they play well.”

Teufel paid compliments to his assistants on the coaching staff. “You got to acknowledge the coaches who work with them. I know that Gee has worked extensively with Ricky [pitching coach Ricky Bones]. Obie [former manager Ken Oberkfell] had a few of these guys last year. So it’s satisfying all around.”

The Mets resurgence, of course, has put a strain on the Bisons roster. With the weather finally breaking, there were big crowds on hand at Coca Cola Field this past weekend, and they were introduced to a largely new cast of players, as the Mets have scrambled to reload the roster here at the AAA level. Outfielder Jason Botts was signed out of an independent league, while infielder Chin-Lung Hu was sent down from New York. Add infielder Luis Figueroa, outfielder Bubba Bell, and Michael Fisher, recently promoted from AA Binghamton, and that makes for a very different team than the one we saw here on opening day. Fisher has batted in the .400 range since his promotion, taking advantage of the opportunity and the roster shuffles.

Fisher says that these sorts of roster shuffles are not unusual at the minor league level, and guys in the clubhouse are constantly getting to know each other trying to bond as a team. “It’s not the first time this has happened on a team I have been on,” he says. “Lots of new faces, just got to get used to it. This is the way the minor league works. When the big team needs a player, they bring ’em up.”

The Bisons homestand continues the rest of this weekend, as the Gwinnett Braves come to town. Both Saturday and Sunday games start at 1:05pm.

Around the Bases

• Thoughts and prayers go out to Mets icon Gary Carter, who was diagnosed with four brain tumors and will begin treatment this week. “I hope God has a different plan,” said Teufelto the media this past weekend, as he addressed his relationship with Carter.

• From the useless stats department: The Bisons are the only team in the International League not to have surrendered a passed ball this season.

• Think the new drainage system installed this past off season at the ballpark hasn’t helped? There have been only two postponements this year despite all the soggy weather, and fans can remember the poor field conditions endured last season despite clear skies. “One has to believe that we would have had far more problems with the old drainage in place,” reports Bisons public relations director Brad Bisbing.

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