Weeks of spring training are over. A starting pitcher was revealed Tuesday. A starting lineup was named Wednesday. It all points to today’s historic season opener at Coca-Cola Field for the Buffalo Bisons.
After four mostly disappointing seasons under the umbrella of the New York Mets, the Herd will take the field for the first time as a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate in a 2:05 game against the Rochester Red Wings (TWC SportsChannel, Radio 1520 AM). It is the first game in all classes on the first day of the minor-league season. All other games start either later in the afternoon or at night.
Right-hander Justin Germano, who threw a perfect game for Columbus in 2011 and was the Opening Day starter against the Bisons last year in Pawtucket, will pitch for Buffalo today. Rochester, the Minnesota Twins’ top affiliate, will counter with righty P.J. Walters.
Tickets are $7-$13. The Bisons have a Guaranteed Win promotion in effect, with all fans receiving a free ticket to a future Friday night game if the team loses today.
The Bisons will play for the first time with their new red-themed uniforms but will have an old face in the dugout as Marty Brown returns to manage the club for the first time since 2005. Brown managed here from 2003-05 in the Cleveland days, winning the ’04 Governors Cup.
“I love Buffalo. It’s a special place for me,” Brown said this week as the team hit town for workouts. “All the people around here are family. … I was sitting in my office and I’m like, ‘Did I really leave?’ I didn’t think I left. It’s good to be back.”
Brown set his lineup Wednesday and St. Francis product Jim Negrych will bat leadoff and play second base. Fleet center fielder Anthony Gose, with 228 steals over the last five seasons, will bat second and right fielder Moises Sierra, a 23-home run man last year between Triple-A Las Vegas and Toronto, bats third.
The cleanup man is first baseman Luis Jimenez, one of the Pacific Coast League standouts at last year’s Triple-A All-Star Home Derby. He had 20 homers and 81 RBIs in the Seattle chain.
The rest of the lineup is Andy LaRoche, third base; Josh Thole, catcher; Ryan Langerhans, lf; Eugenio Velez, dh; and Ryan Goins, shortstop.
“This is a special group. We have some young prospects that are really talented,” Brown said, referring to Gose, Sierra and Goins. “I think everyone is going to enjoy watching them progress, and play and develop. Then we put together some free agent players that are really not only good players but good in the clubhouse. They’re going to make sure we’re going about doing things the right way.”
The Bisons have not made the playoffs in eight years and the Blue Jays have not gone in Triple-A since 1998. But Toronto’s top farmhands went 79-64 last year under Brown in Las Vegas and are looking to make a breakthrough in 2013.
“I don’t care what affiliation you’re with, you come to Buffalo, you’re expected to go out and compete and win every day,” Brown said. “Being here before, that’s what I try to emphasize to my team. I don’t really care about your story. Nobody cares why you’re in Triple-A. When you walk through the door, this is what I expect.
“Not to be a tough guy, but just to let them know it’s not about me. It’s about them. If you do the little things to take care of the daily things, it’s going to work out well for you. It’s a good group. I think they understand that.”