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HERD TO WAIT ANOTHER DAY FOR OPENER

The Buffalo Bisons will have to wait a day before beginning their 120th season of baseball.

The Bisons play a doubleheader at 5:05 p.m. today against the Richmond Braves after Thursday's game was postponed due to rain. The teams will play a pair of seven-inning games to open the season in Dunn Tire Park (Radio 1230, 1330 AM).

It is the fourth time in the last 13 years that Opening Day was delayed because of inclement weather. Rain or snow pushed back openers in 1992, '95 and '98. The first pitch was scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Thursday, but the tarp wasn't removed from the field until 4:30. Players from both teams ran wind sprints, and the Bisons began their ring ceremony to celebrate the 2004 International League championship before showers forced both teams back into the dugouts. Umpires finally called the game at 5:45 p.m.

"This is Buffalo. Anything can happen over the lake right now," said Bisons manager Marty Brown. "It's a sign of good weather to come, that's the way you have to look at it."

The pitching rotation remains the same for the Bisons. Left-hander Brian Tallet will start the first game, followed by righty Steve Watkins in the nightcap. Tallet threw briefly in the bullpen and played catch in the outfield before the game was called. The Braves are scheduled to send out right-hander Kyle Davis and left-hander Sam McConnell.

Tallet, limited to 36 innings in 2004 after Tommy John surgery nearly two years ago, appeared in five games with the Herd last season with an ERA of 4.15. Watkins spent seven years in the San Diego Padres' organization before signing with the Indians in late November as a nonroster player. Watkins appeared in seven games for the Indians this spring and started three. He was 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in 18 2/3 innings.

"Obviously, we don't want (Tallet and Watkins) going on the same day," Brown said. "But we have guys like (Kenny) Rayborn or (Dennis) Stark who have some length, and they'll be able to step in and separate them when their turn comes around again."

The defending Governors' Cup champions still managed to fit in the ring ceremony. It rained heavily as owners Bob and Mindy Rich presented rings to Brown and the 13 remaining members of the championship team. Buster T. Bison, the team's mascot, emerged from right field with the International League championship flag, which was raised in left-center field. In a clue that Opening Day was headed for a washout, Buster slipped and fell as he ran off the field.

For Brown, it was gratifying to reflect on last season.

"It was very enjoyable," said Brown, the IL Manager of the Year and Baseball America's Minor League Manager of the Year. "I haven't won a championship as a manager until this past year, so it's very special for me to be in Buffalo, and winning the championship was a lot of fun. I know it will be something that I'll always remember. A lot of players that we have on this club were here last year, so it's nice to see those guys recognized again and bring that pride into the clubhouse."

Fans holding tickets to Thursday's game can exchange them for a comparable ticket to any future game, excluding concerts and special events. All ticket exchanges must be made at the Dunn Tire Park ticket office. Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman will throw out the first pitch before today's first game.
e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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