The Buffalo Bisons headed back to Western New York Monday after breaking spring training camp in Florida. And the first order of business was completed – set the Opening Day roster.
Manager Gary Allenson named right-hander Marcus Stroman as the Herd’s Opening Day starter. The Bisons begin the season at 2:05 p.m. Thursday against the Rochester Red Wings at Coca-Cola Field.
The 22-year-old Stroman is ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization by Baseball America. He begins his third professional season after being selected by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Last season, Stroman went 9-5 with a 3.30 earned-run average in 20 games for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
The Opening Day roster for the Herd (pending any call-ups to Toronto, which opened its season on Monday), features 17 players with Major League experience.
Stroman leads a deep pitching staff that includes left-hander Sean Nolin, righty Kyle Drabek, lefty Ricky Romero and righty Liam Hendriks in the starting rotation.
The bullpen is anchored by closer Neil Wagner along with Josh Stilson, Mickey Storey, Chad Jenkins, Marcus Walden, Rob Rasmussen and Ryan Tepera.
Kevin Pillar, the 20th-rated prospect, returns to the Bisons. He won the Blue Jays’ Webster Award for 2013, presented to the club’s top minor-league player.
Pillar made his big league debut last season after batting .299 with 27 extra-base hits in 52 games with the Bisons last season.
Also returning to the outfield is Anthony Gose who led the Herd with 64 runs scored and five triples. Other outfielders include Matt Tuiasosopo, Brett Carroll and Ricardo Nanita.
Dan Johnson, who will make his Bisons debut in the infield, was the International League MVP in 2010. He has 20 or more home runs four times in the IL. Andy LaRoche returns after driving in 51 runs for the Herd last season while Munenori Kawasaki returns at shortstop.
Chris Getz spent most of last season with the Kansas City Royals while the infield will also feature Jared Goedert and Jonathan Diaz.
Catcher Mike Nickeas will play in his sixth straight season with the Bisons, tying a modern era record set by Jason Cooper. Jack Murphy will make his Triple-A debut behind the plate. He hit 11 doubles and drove in 22 runs in 56 games for New Hampshire last year.