Had a good pregame chat with Bisons manager Wally Backman this morning near the indoor batting cages in advance of today's home opener. It's a 2 p.m. start against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the sun is trying to break through. The team is taking batting practice on the field and rain does not appear to be an issue (If you come, the team has announced you get a free ticket to a future game on this homestand).
The Bisons hit town with a 3-3 record and they've been pitching-heavy at this point.
Buffalo is second in the International League in team ERA at 2.12 -- and the bullpen is at 0.90 for 20 innings. The Herd is batting just .232 and has only 18 runs in the six games, with its six homers third in the IL (Val Pascucci is tied for the IL lead with three).
"We could have very easily come home 6-0," Backman said. "They played well on the road. To be able to play and be 3-3 on the road is OK. It's satisfying. Still, I was a little disappointed and I think the staff was a little disappointed. We had opportunities to win every ballgame. With that being said, that's a good thing. If we can play .500 on the road and come home and play .650 or .750 at home, when it all comes to the end, we'll be in good shape."
Six Bisons are batting .200 or below thus far. Bobby Scales (6 for 12), Vinny Rottino (7 for 21) and Zach Lutz (6 for 20) are the only hot average bats.
"It's early in the season. It's cold out there right now and I think things will get better," Backman said. "We do have a very solid starting pitching staff and they're going to keep us in the ballgame. As long as the offense produces the way we believe it's going to produce, the averages will climb. The power is going to be here all year long so we're excited about it."
Jeurys Familia will make the start for Buffalo today. He went 4 2/3 innings in his first start Friday at Pawtucket, allowing one run on five hits and earning a no-decision. Familia and former No. 1 draft pick Matt Harvey are the much-ballyhooed top of the Buffalo rotation. Harvey is 0-1, 5.79 in two starts and has given up 14 hits in just 9 1/3 innings.
"I'd like to see [Familia] get a little bit deeper in the game than he did last time," Backman said. "We'd like to see him get into the sixth or seventh inning. Keep his pitch count down a little bit. Him and Harvey, the pitch counts have been a little bit too high too fast. We have to pitch to earlier contact. They're both power guys but hopefully he pitches to contact more. More first-pitch strikes."
Big Yankees pitching prospects are here as well. Dellin Betances, a 6-foot-8 former Yankee Stadium bleacher creature, goes today and Manny Banuelos throws tomorrow.
"For a major-league club, you're always looking for pitching and when you have your prospects in Triple-A, you're always paying close attention," Backman said. "I'm sure Terry [Mets manager Terry Collins] is playing close attention as the way [Joe] Girardi is as well for the Yankees."
The Buffalo lineup: Valdespin-CF, Scales-2b, Satin-1b, Pascucci-dh, Rottino-lf, Lutz-3b, Loewen-rf, Johnson-c, Quintanilla-ss.
For more from Backman, including thoughts on Jordany Valdespin's move to center field and a potential callup to replace David Wright, click the audio file below.