It was an odd kind of debut for right-handed pitcher Glenn Sparkman.
It was his first game at the Triple-A level on Sunday when he started for the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field. But the Triple-A debut came on a Major League rehabilitation assignment.
"It is different for sure, but I enjoyed it," Sparkman said. "The talent is always going to be better. Guys are a lot stronger. When you make a good pitch and you leave it over the plate, it gets hit farther so you've really got to go out there and battle."
Sparkman, claimed in the Rule 5 Draft by Toronto from the Kansas City Royals in December, broke a bone in his thumb during spring training. The 25-year-old, who was expected to play a role in the Blue Jays bullpen this season, instead started 2017 with extended time in Florida, working his way slowly back to the mound.
His rehab assignment was transferred to the Bisons and he pitched well in his four innings of work Sunday, giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits. Unfortunately, the Herd again failed to find offense against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. And after two rain delays, the game was called after seven complete innings with the Rail Riders earning the 2-0 win to sweep the series.
Sparkman threw 62 pitches through four innings, 41 for strikes, and would have come back out for the fifth had a rain shower not delayed the game for 42 minutes.
"Clean delivery. He was pounding the strike zone," Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said of Sparkman's outing. "The key to me is he wasn't afraid to try to get outs in the strike zone. A lot of guys will try to trick guys or throw a breaking ball early but he went right after a good team with a lot of good hitters and got outs in the strike zone."
Physically, Sparkman said Sunday's performance "felt really good. Arm felt great. Just getting back the hang of things. It's different. It was a thumb injury. It was my pitching hand, too, so you've got to take your time so I can get control of my pitches. But it's been good."
Streaking: The season series between the RailRiders and Bisons has been one of streaks. The Herd won the first five meetings this season with Scranton winning the next five.
Rain delay: In the middle of the fourth inning, the tarp came out as rain moved through downtown Buffalo. It was an odd scene with both managers -- Al Pedrique from Scranton and Bobby Meacham from Buffalo -- arguing with the three-man umpiring crew. The delay came after the game was 54 minutes old and lasted 42 minutes.
"The bottom line was we were in agreement," Meacham said. "We can look at computers all day long and satellites whatever but when the sky says it's not raining, it's not raining. That's what the discussion was. We didn't agree that the tarp should be put on."
It did start raining shortly after the tarp went down. But Meacham stands by his stance that the game should have continued until rain started to fall.
"No. It was not the right call," Meacham said. "Like I said, you can look at computers all day long. I've been in baseball a long time. We've had an hour delay to start a game, based on computer, that never came."
Rain delay II: As the teams took the field for the eighth, a flash of lightning then a rumble of thunder brought a second rain delay. After an hour and 21 minute delay, the game was called and Scranton took the win.
Defensive miscues: The Bisons didn't commit any errors, but they weren't crisp in the field to start Sunday. Shortstop Gregorio Petit dropped a ball on a double-play opportunity. Then a hit from Donovan Solano that split the gap in right center field rolled past Ian Parmley, allowing Dustin Fowler to score from first.
Scranton extended its first-inning lead to 2-0 when Solano took third on a passed ball then scored on a sacrifice to center from Tyler Austin.
Roster moves: Pitcher Jarrett Grube, who was scheduled to come off the disabled list Sunday, was traded to the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. Grube went 2-3 in 11 starts for the Herd with a 6.14 ERA.
Attendance: The announced paid attendance was 9,943.
Up next: Bisons start a seven-game road trip with a three-game series in Rochester starting Monday then a four-game set in Syracuse. The Herd returns to Coca-Cola Field on Monday, June 26 with a doubleheader against Rochester.