There was nary a Buffalo Bison found lingering in the clubhouse after Wednesday afternoon's 3-1 loss to the Rochester Red Wings. Most of them were in the back room, lifting weights, which means that all in all this is a pretty smart group.
Because what this season of turmoil has shown is that players should never consider themselves strong enough to endure everything the Cleveland Indians will throw at them.
Some of the weight the Bisons have been asked to shoulder this season has been inescapable. Nineteen Indians have been placed on the disabled list, and most of the replacements have come from Buffalo. The Bisons will make their 162nd roster change today when Jaret Wright pitches three innings against the Red Wings (7:05 p.m., Radio 1520) on a rehabilitation assignment. Last year, including the International League playoffs and the Triple-A World Series, the Herd made 139 roster changes.
However, the Indians have made some other moves that have either puzzled the players on their top Triple-A club or led them to ponder the organization's loyalties.
The Indians recently went outside the organization to bring in minor leaguers third baseman Carlos Baerga and reliever Jim Poole, and then whisked them to the bigs.
They signed two veteran catchers before this season -- left-handed hitting Chris Turner and right-handed hitting Pat Borders. Monday they released Borders, the 1992 World Series MVP, left Turner in Buffalo and acquired Tyler Houston, an occasional catcher with the Cubs, as the backup to Einar Diaz.
Reliever Sean DePaula made five solid appearances in Buffalo after spending most of the season in Single-A and Double-A. That was good enough for the Indians, who called him up Monday and saw him rocked in their 14-12 win over the Anaheim Angels. Jim Brower, 11-11 with a 4.73 ERA, went to Cleveland Wednesday as reliever Rakers was placed on the DL. Meanwhile, Dave Telgheder, a force out of the bullpen since coming off the DL in early July, remains in Buffalo. He threw four perfect innings in relief of starter and loser Paul Rigdon (7-4) on Wednesday.
Like the Indians, the Bisons have had injuries to contend with. Third baseman Russell Branyan hurt his wrist Saturday and for the second time this season is rebounding slowly from an injury. He's second in the league with 30 homers and also 19 strikeouts shy the IL's single-season record.
Run-producing machine Chan Perry (wrist) offered to play Wednesday but manager Jeff Datz told him to give it another day. Turner was stung by a ball off his collarbone Tuesday night. So Datz had no power options when he could have used one in the ninth.
All the instability appears to finally have caught up with the Bisons. After an exhilarating run through August that brought them back to .500 and into playoff contention, they've been listless in dropping two straight. They're seven games out of first with seven to play, and this weekend's two hdoubleheaders at division-leading Scranton no longer loom as showdowns. They look spent.
"Possibly," Datz said. "There's been a lot of movement here but you expect it at this level. You don't expect this much, but our big club has been decimated with injuries. But yeah, there's things going on it seems like daily now. I think the past couple, three or four days is just because of the August 31st and September 1st call-ups and deadlines and postseason roster. There has to be some maneuverability there with the postseason roster.
"Plus the fact they (the Indians) had a wild one last night and used a lot of pitching. Another guy (Brower) went up. Guys are seeing that and on one hand it's good guys are getting opportunities to pitch, but on the other hand, yeah, (guys are wondering) what's going on."
Rochester opened the scoring with a two-run third that again exposed left fielder Scott Morgan's major weakness: his arm. He made two throws to the plate, one awful, one respectable but neither good enough to gun down the runner.
The Bisons had six hits and left nine stranded as they failed to deliver with runners aboard. Travis Fryman's solo homer, his first of his rehab assignment, was their dent on the scoreboard.
First place is all but out of reach, but a winning season can be had. The Herd is 68-69, and Datz wants to accomplish that in the worst way.
"I'm not happy with .500," he said. "I'd like to be above .500. We have talented people here; we should still have the opportunity to do that. . . . We want to be better than that. Even with all the moves going on we've had a good year. We'd sure like to finish up strong."