The injuries and pitching woes of the New York Mets have created both opportunity and chaos when it comes to the Buffalo Bisons.
While individuals get chances to play with the big club, the Herd have to make due with shakeups to their starting rotation. And it gets slightly more complicated when the Mets are a mere 90 minutes away in Toronto for an Interleague series.
On Friday night, Jeremy Hefner was sitting in Section 100 of Coca-Cola Field doing the pitching chart for Matt Harvey's 11-strikeout win against Gwinnett. Saturday morning, he hopped in a car to Toronto to join the Mets before their afternoon game, pitching five strong innings in relief. Hefner's extended outing came after starter Miguel Batista left after two innings with a lower back strain.
Hefner was the scheduled starter for the Herd today (1:05 p.m., Radio 1520 AM). That spot now goes to reliever Jack Egbert, who will make his first start of the year for Buffalo. Egbert is 2-2 with a 2.05 earned-run average over 22 innings pitched in 15 appearances.
"We had a bit of a shakeup," Bisons manager Wally Backman said before the Herd's game with Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Field on Saturday night. "Egbert will be on a pitch count today and it's going to be a bullpen kinda day for us."
Buffalo's Chris Schwinden (2.54 ERA) reportedly will join the Mets today on a taxi squad move. Bringing Schwinden to Toronto would help the Mets if Batista goes on the disabled list. Assuming he doesn't pitch, Schwinden could certainly return for Tuesday's scheduled start against Indianapolis.
In Toronto, Hefner allowed four hits and no walks while striking out five, but allowed both runs and was charged with the loss in a 2-0 defeat to the Blue Jays. He could be in line for more big-league work.
"I applaud the job Jeremy Hefner did," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "Getting here this morning and giving us that kind of outing is tremendous. If Miguel can't start [his next outing], Hefner is going in that spot."
Hefner was 3-2 in seven starts with the Bisons, and his 2.72 earned-run average was second among Herd starters.
"I'm not trying to change anything, just see how my stuff plays," Hefner said. "I'm just trying to get them to put the ball in play as soon as possible."
Speaking of the pitching staff for the Bisons this year, they can hit, too. Heading into Saturday night's game, the staff was hitting .195 (8 for 41). Those eight hits tie the team total from last season (8 for 98).
Credit more batting practice. Backman said starting pitchers along with Dylan Owen are taking BP every other day when the team is home to help them stay sharp.
"It's like anything, the more you do it, the stronger you get in the swinging and you get to see the ball a little more," said Harvey, who is hitting .400 (4 for 10). "I think all of us [pitchers] take pride in it. Once one of us gets a hit, the others want to do the same thing. It's something that we're all taking pride in. We don't want to be an easy out."