The Buffalo Bisons, a team looking to get back into postseason play for the first time since 2005, have gotten off to a good start in 2023 through three games.

An opening day 2-1 loss to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders notwithstanding (the earliest the franchise has ever played a game in a season, by the way), the Herd have won back-to-back games by scores of 6-4 and 3-2 – putting the Bisons in good position heading into their homer-opening series against the Worcester Red Sox on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re ready for opening day here and we’re really excited,” general manager Anthony Sprague said. “We have an exciting new team, a lot of young players mixed with some veteran players and of course Casey Candaele back and a few new coaches in Tim Norton and (former Bisons MVP) Matt Hague back. We’re just happy to be back here in Buffalo and ready for opening day.”

Hague, the team’s most valuable player in 2015, will assist Candaele this season after Candaele finished the 2022 campaign as the parent club Toronto Blue Jays’ interim bench coach. This will be Candaele’s third year in the dugout, and came into this season with a 122-89 record along with a Triple-A East co-Manager of the Year award after leading the Bisons to a Northeast Division title on 2021.

Righty Casey Lawrence is the team’s ace, having compiled a 2.79 ERA and 0.89 WHIP – the lowest totals in all of Triple-A baseball. He needed just 67 pitches to get five strikeouts through five innings in the opener on Friday but gave up two solo home runs, which proved to be the difference.

Former Pittsburgh Pirate Zach Thompson made his Bisons debut on the mound on Saturday and had three punchouts in four innings of work with no walks to help his team pick up a victory. Infielder Addison Barger had a two-run homer and catcher Rob Brantly had three hits and two RBIs, while Bowden Francis and relievers Thomas Hatch and Brandon Eisert pitched well enough to secure a win on Sunday.

Being the main minor league affiliate for the Blue Jays, Sprague hoped that the team will be able to draw more Canadian fans in 2023 in comparison to the last few years – which were restricted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re expecting a lot more people from Ontario. The Canadian business is such a big part of our business and last year we were certainly missing that with the border being closed,” Sprague said. “It’s been four years for them since the border has been opened fully. I know at the end of last year it was opened a little bit but this will be the first time in full that we’re hoping to have them back.”

Additionally, since Major League Baseball tests many potential rule changes in the minor leagues, Sprague offered his own thoughts on some of the new features in baseball and their impact on the game.

“I do think a lot of the rules that Major League Baseball has come out with are going to help the game,” Sprague said. “The automatic balls and strikes system will, I think, speed the game up a little bit. And in talking with some of the umpires, I think the challenge system will not only do that but add another element of excitement to the game.

“They’re testing the system right now, but it won’t be up and running until April 24. Which means for us it won’t be up until May because we have a two-week road trip at that point. There have been good reports from it though from all the other teams that have used it.”

First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.

Tony Fiorello

Tony’s work has appeared in multiple publications, including The Buffalo News, Bee Group Newspapers, From the 300 Level, WNYAthletics, Sports and Leisure Magazine, Community Papers of WNY, the Tonawanda News, the Niagara Gazette, WNY Hockey Report and Buffalo Hockey Central. He graduated from Buffalo State College in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfiorello.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *