The minor league baseball season is already a week old but Thursday afternoon brings Opening Day to Coca-Cola Field.
The Bisons return from their season-opening road trip to the pomp and circumstance of the first game of 2016 in Buffalo as they host the Rochester Red Wings at 2:05 p.m.
Mother Nature even has her baseball fan hat on with game-time temperature forecast to be 51 degrees and the four-game homestand looking to be rain-free.
The Coca-Cola Field festivities will begin at 1:35 p.m. culminating in the ceremonial first pitch thrown by National Baseball Hall of Famer and former Toronto Blue Jays great Roberto Alomar.
When the game begins, the Herd will be looking to end a two-game losing skid and even their record after starting the season 3-4 on their road trip to Pawtucket and Syracuse. The Bisons lost their last two games in Syracuse, including Wednesday’s 3-2, 13-inning loss to the Chiefs after taking a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth.
They face a Rochester team that ended a two-game losing skid with a dramatic come-from-behind 7-6 win over Lehigh Valley at Frontier Field on Wednesday afternoon. The Red Wings (4-3) went to the bottom of the ninth trailing 6-4. They scored on a throwing error, tied the game on a single by Buck Britton and won on a two-out single by Reynaldo Rodriguez.
Scheduled to start for the Bisons is Scott Diamond. The lefty made his Bisons debut in Pawtucket, picking up the win in the first game of a doubleheader against the PawSox on April 9. Diamond pitched five innings of one-run baseball, striking out five without issuing a walk and allowing four singles. He retired seven hitters in a row at one point and gave up his only run, a two-out single in the fourth inning.
Of course the Bisons pitching staff has already had to adapt to roster shifts. First, the Toronto Blue Jays released Scott Copeland, selling his contract to the Korean Baseball Organization. Copeland had been tagged to be part of the Herd’s starting rotation.
Then on Wednesday the Blue Jays recalled reliever Pat Venditte. The switch-pitcher made two appearances for the Herd, striking out five of the six batters he faced in two scoreless innings facing only right-handed hitters.
Dalton Pompey returned to the Bisons lineup on Tuesday after missing the first five games with a toe injury. In the doubleheader he went 4 for 6 with a stolen base and two runs scored.
“I was just icing it constantly, three-four times a day,” Pompey said on the Bisons radio broadcast about the injury he suffered at the end of spring training. “I was doing some laser treatment on my foot as well and it was able to get better a lot quicker and I was able get out there at 100 percent. Running is a big part of my game and I had to make sure I was ready in that department.
“I’ve had it before but once it goes away it pretty much goes away. It’s called turf toe but can do it on any sort of surface. It’s a hyperextension of your ligament.”
Of the players who have been in all seven games for the Herd, designated hitter Jesus Montero leads with a .375 batting average while driving in six runs.
First baseman Casey Kotchman has been on base in all six games he’s played, batting .263 with four walks and a .316 on-base percentage.