Ernie Young didn't want a repeat of last season, when he spent time at designated hitter and first base but rarely got to play in the outfield. So he spent most of the offseason trying to prove to the Buffalo Bisons that he's a capable everyday outfielder.
And he didn't forget how to hit.
The 35-year-old veteran went 4 for 6 in the Bisons doubleheader and scored the winning run in the nightcap as the Bisons split with the Richmond Braves on Friday in Dunn Tire Park. Pinch hitter Andy Abad drove in Young from third in the bottom of the eighth to give the Bisons a 5-4 victory. In the first game, Young went 3 for 3 with a pair of homers and three RBIs in the Bisons' 5-4 loss.
"You always want to get out of the gate good to start the season," Young said. "I just put a good swing on the ball, and it was carrying pretty good that first game. The second homer, it was over the middle of the plate and I just went with it."
Young was the designated hitter for 77 games in 2004 but started Friday in right field then shifted to left in the second game. Young played just six games in the outfield last season and another 33 at first base.
"As long as you're in the lineup that's all that matters," Young said. "Last year, we had a lot of guys who played in the outfield, so I had to play elsewhere. In this game, you have to go with the flow."
But Young positioned himself to play more in the outfield by playing winter baseball in Venezuela, where he batted .330.
"He came into camp in a lot better shape and really had his legs underneath him," said Bisons manager Marty Brown. "He played really good in the outfield for spring training, and I told him going into the tail end of spring training that he was going to play some outfield."
Game One starter Brian Tallet was solid in five innings, allowing two runs, five hits, three strikeouts and four walks in a no decision. He threw 81 pitches with 54 strikes.
"He looked good," Brown said. "He got overly quick to the plate at times when he really didn't need to. Those are the things that sometimes Brian does, and he has his own reasoning for it, but overall I think he pitched very well."
The Dunn Tire Park surroundings are familiar to new Bisons hitting coach Felix Fermin, the starting shortstop for Buffalo in the ballpark's first game, a 1-0 win over Denver on April 14, 1988. Fermin went 1 for 3 that day and batted .261 in 87 games for the '88 Herd.
"It was exciting back at that time for the team and everyone here," said Fermin, 41. "It was my first time in Triple-A. To come to Buffalo was a nice city for me. There's a lot of memories here. Coming to Buffalo opened the door for me to go to the big leagues."
Fermin was named Buffalo's hitting coach in the offseason after Carlos Garcia became first base coach for the Seattle Mariners. Fermin, who played for four major-league teams from 1987 to 1996, was Cleveland's scouting supervisor in his native Dominican Republic last year and spent the previous six seasons as the manager of the Tribe's Dominican Summer League team.
"I'm looking forward to doing a good job for Marty Brown, for the team and for the organization," Fermin said.
Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman threw out the first pitch Friday, wearing a Bisons No. 7 jersey. But instead of throwing a routine lob to catcher Dusty Wathan, Losman fired a fastball that was low, away and in the dirt. It was ruled incomplete.
The Bisons unveiled their throwback uniforms, a 1995 version of red, white and blue they will wear several times this year to commemorate 10 seasons as a Cleveland affiliate. . . . International League President Randy Mobley was in the park for the twin bill before heading to today's opener in Rochester's Frontier Field.