When the Buffalo Bisons put a runner on base this season, pay attention. He probably won't stay put for very long.
It's a new look to the Bisons' offense this year. With very little home run pop in the lineup, manager Torey Lovullo has taken to the manufacturing runs approach, which includes a new level of aggressive base running.
"We feel like we have a lot of team speed," Lovullo said. "I let it be known early on that I want to steal a number of bases this year. It puts pressure on the defense, puts pressure on the opposition. It's not designed to run us out of innings. I feel like we've been picking the right spots, putting runners in motion and it's been very effective to this point."
Effective indeed. Consider that this year's Bisons already have stolen 18 bases on 21 attempts, putting them on pace for 187 thefts this season. In 2006, the Herd stole just 80 bases on 122 attempts.
"We're trying to take advantage of situations where the pitchers are giving us a chance to run," said outfielder Ben Francisco, who leads the team with five stolen bases. "Once we get a good read, we're moving. . . . Even guys who aren't fast are running too. It's probably a little contagious. Once one person gets one everyone wants to get one."
Francisco stole two bases in Saturday's 5-3 loss to Pawtucket. His second of the game came in the fifth inning when he took second base, moved to third on a single by Luis Rivas and scored when reliever Javier Lopez was called for a balk before he even delivered his first pitch.
Is there a connection between aggressive base running and mental errors by the defense?
"Every pitcher is different," Francisco said. "Some pitchers we can't really run on. Others you can. . . . It opens up holes in the infield. Pitchers are trying to rush to the plate so they can get out of their rhythm. We saw a balk tonight because they were trying to control the running game."
Pawtucket starter Runelvys Hernandez left in the third inning with an injured right hamstring and will undergo more tests today. Hernandez pitched two innings, giving up one hit with one walk and one strikeout.
Lovullo announced that relief pitcher Jason Beverlin has retired.
"[Friday] he came to the conclusion it was time to start a new chapter in his life," Lovullo said. "I was sad to see him go. He's a great man, a great competitor. He was doing a solid job for us but he just decided it was time to move on."
Beverlin, 33, was 1-1 with a 4.50 earned run average in four relief outings. He was 10-8 in 23 games (20 starts) for the Herd in 2002.
The Herd also sent infielder Shaun Larkin to Double-A Akron. Larkin played three games for the Bisons.
Before the game the Bisons held a moment of silence for the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre. . . . The Bisons hit their 60-degree guarantee on Saturday. The game-time temperature was 62 degrees, however, fans were still given a free ticket if they stayed until the seventh inning as they dropped below 60. . . . The series continues at 1:05 today with right hander Brian Slocum (1-0, 6.00 ERA) scheduled to start for the Herd against lefty Abe Alvarez (0-2, 7.45).