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MIGHTY CASEY AND ALOU AMONG ALL-STAR EX-BISONS

Some of them went to Houston. Others deserved to be there but didn't get the call. Others still have gotten the job done in relative anonymity -- but we've noticed. As the second half cranks up, it's time to honor one more group of stars. It's our annual look at the ex-Bison All-Star Team.

Here's the rundown by position, with years in Buffalo in parentheses. For you sticklers, we're not including Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, who only played here on injury rehab. All stats are entering the weekend.

Catcher -- Victor Martinez, Indians (2003): The 25-year-old started hitting last June in Buffalo and hasn't stopped as he's batting .298 in his first full season. That hasn't been a big surprise. But no one thought he'd be leading all big-league catchers in RBIs (70). He had a whopping seven RBIs against Seattle Friday.

First base -- Sean Casey, Reds (1997): After a couple of sub-.300 seasons, the hero of the Herd's '97 American Association championship-clinching win at Iowa has bounced back in a big way. He's batting .342 and slugging .596, both career highs.

Second base -- Tony Womack, Cardinals (1994) and Marco Scutaro, A's (1997-2000). Take your pick here. Womack, a shortstop in Buffalo, is batting .308 with 14 stolen bases. Meanwhile, the player known as Marcos Scoot-TAR-oh in Buffalo is now Marco Scoot-err-oh. Whatever. But the Venezuelan has taken advantage of the season-ending injury suffered by Mark Ellis in spring training to hit .284. The only AL second baseman with higher averages are Alfonso Soriano, Ronnie Belliard and Miguel Cairo.

Shortstop -- This is the current black hole of Buffalo alums. Cleveland's John McDonald is batting just .196 in 51 at-bats and no other former Bisons are playing at the position. That's why we mentioned two second baseman.

Third base -- David Bell, Phillies (1995): He's on pace to have his best season ever in a full-time role, batting .273 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs.

Outfield -- Moises Alou, Cubs (1990), Jeromy Burnitz, Rockies (1995), Dave Roberts, Dodgers (1999-2001). Alou (.273-20-51) is having yet another solid year in his 13th big-league season and simply needs to stay away from Steve Bartman come October. Burnitz (.283-18-57) figures to get dealt to a pennant contender in the next month, while Roberts is batting .260 and is second in the NL in triples (6) and stolen bases (28). Honorable mention to San Diego's Brian Giles (1995-96-98), who has picked things up after a slow start and is at .290-14-55.

Designated hitter -- Travis Hafner, Indians (2003): One of the Tribe's big surprises this year, he's batting .319 with 11 homers and 63 RBIs.

Starting pitchers -- Cliff Lee, Indians (2002-03), Jake Westbrook, Indians (2001-03), Jaret Wright, Braves (1997-2003), Ryan Drese, Rangers (2001-02), Tim Wakefield, Red Sox (1992-94). Lee is 10-1 and should have been in the All-Star Game while Westbrook (6-5) is second in the AL in ERA at 3.14. Wright (7-5, 3.34) has found a home in Atlanta and could be the NL's Comeback Player of the Year. Drese is only 5-5 thanks to low run support but has a glossy 3.63 ERA in 17 starts for the AL West leaders. Wakefield (5-5, 4.17) has chewed up 106 innings for the Red Sox.

Relief pitchers -- Lots of ex-Bisons contributors. It all starts with Reds closer Danny Graves (1996-97), the major-league leader with 34 saves. Devil Rays closer Danys Baez (2001) is 18 for 20 in save opportunities. And there is some terrific middle relief work being done: Cardinals lefty Steve Kline (1997) is 2-1, 2.36 in 45 games, Giants righty Jim Brower (1999-2000) is 6-5, 3.70 in 50 appearances, Rangers lefty Brian Shouse (1993-94) is 2-0, 2.65 in 21 games and Twins righty Joe Roa (1995-96) is 2-1, 4.32 in 31 games. Roa is Buffalo's single-season victory leader with a 17-3 mark as a starter here in 1995.

Herd was all wet

Shame on Bisons management for what it pulled Thursday night in Dunn Tire Park. It's part of baseball for fans to endure delays due to rain and wet field conditions. But it's inexcusable to not update the crowd about the situation on the public-address system and it was patently ridiculous to force people to sit in darkness and not turn on the stadium lights as the delay stretched until 9 p.m before a postponement was finally announced.

Not having lights was dangerous for people moving about in the seats, especially when interns were tossing soft baseballs into the stands to pass the time. Not flipping the switches was a bush-league decision akin to what you'd see in a place like Syracuse. But keeping the lights off until the umpires request them in the first or second inning has become almost a nightly trick this year. Is saving a few bucks on an electric bill what this organization has become?

By the way, Thursday's long delay was the second time this year it had not rained for several hours but heavy downpours from earlier in the day could not be cleared. The stadium's outfield drainage system better get an overhaul during the offseason because those two games would have gone on at many ballparks, even others in Triple-A.

At least the team regained its customer service sense Friday night by offering rainchecks -- when it didn't have to -- after a 23-inning doubleheader canceled the regular postgame fireworks show.

Around the horn

Indians manager Eric Wedge on potential call-ups from Buffalo: "With those young people down there, we have to weigh them staying and playing every day or coming up here and not playing every day. Look at the way most of our guys are playing right now and you see we're caught up in a bit of a traffic jam. That's a good problem to have."

The dismantling of the Mariners took off last week when the team designated veterans John Olerud and Rich Aurilia for assignment and began to call up rookies from Triple-A Tacoma. The Giants and Red Sox are both interested in Olerud, who's batting just .245.

Several Red Sox players have shaved their heads for the second half trying to change the team's luck in the AL East. "Last year, at the end of August we went bald and it worked," said ace utility man Kevin Millar. "I just didn't plan on having to go bald in July."

Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Torey Lovullo's fast track as a manager in the Indians organization nearly took a detour earlier this month. Lovullo, who led Class A Kinston (N.C.) to a 45-24 record and a first half title in the Carolina League, emerged as a leading candidate for the vacant job as head coach at UCLA, his alma mater, before the Bruins hired UC-Irvine's John Savage.

e-mail:
mharrington@buffnews.com

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