New York Mets: Buffalo Bisons

Mets morning briefing 9.18.12

September, 18, 2012
R.A. Dickey surrendered solo homers to Jimmy Rollins and Domonic Brown and failed to win his 19th game because the Mets again mustered little scoring at home in a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. Dickey will have three more starts to try to notch two wins -- Sunday against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field, then games at Atlanta and Miami.

Tonight, weather permitting, Matt Harvey (3-5, 2.92 ERA) makes his final 2012 start before being shut down due to an innings count. He opposes Phillies rookie right-hander Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 4.95).

One more loss by the Mets would clinch their fourth straight losing season.

Tuesday's news reports:

Steve Moore/Associated PressIke Davis may be traded this offseason.
• The Mets will consider trading Ike Davis this winter, which would open first base for Lucas Duda and potentially address other areas of need, a baseball source told Mike Puma in the Post also weighs in on the Davis vs. Duda debate, writing:

The 25-year-old Davis said he would like to stay in the organization that selected him No. 1 (18th overall) in the 2008 draft. But he said he won’t be bitter if he’s dealt. “If they trade me, they trade me -- I can’t do anything about it,” Davis said. “I have to do my job where I am at.” Does Davis consider himself a cornerstone-type player? “I think I can help teams win baseball games,” Davis said. “That is all I want to do.”

• After the Buffalo Bisons showed no interest in renewing their four-year-old affiliation agreement, the Mets signed a two-year deal -- the shortest available -- with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League. Terry Collins, who managed in that league for five years, acknowledged the altitude and dryness of the West Coast ballparks present challenges to pitchers and inflate batters' statistics. But pitchers can still thrive, the manager added. Top prospect Zack Wheeler, who likely is ticketed for Triple-A to open next season, tweeted after the news became official that he is familiar with those types of conditions because he played with San Jose in the California League while in Class A with the San Francisco Giants.

"The Mets have been in the PCL before -- not quite this far out West -- but I think it will be good," Paul DePodesta told Todd Dewey in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "There are a lot of direct flights to New York from Las Vegas. It adds a little flavor to our development system. We play at a lot of pitcher-friendly parks throughout our system ... It will be a challenge for us and our fans not to get too distracted by some of the statistics and focus on the development of the player. On the other hand, our hitters might have a field day."

You can view a PDF of the 51s' 2013 schedule here. Read more in Newsday and the Star-Ledger.

• Dickey had no margin for error in Monday's loss. The Mets have now scored three or fewer runs in a franchise-record 14 straight home games. They are 4-22 at Citi Field since the All-Star break. Read game recaps in the Star-Ledger, Newsday, Record, Times, Post and Daily News.

• Columnist Tyler Kepner in the Times tackles the state of the Mets. Writes Kepner:

The few positives from the second half, manager Terry Collins said, have been the emergence of Matt Harvey, the development of some young relievers and the improved play of Ike Davis. “So there’s been some things,” Collins said. “It just shows you guys are not just pitching the tent together and packing it up. There’s still some individual goals that want to be achieved here, and guys are going out every day to achieve them.”

Yet even the best individual seasons, by R.A. Dickey and David Wright, are tinged with some concern about their futures with the Mets. Neither is signed past 2013. Only one player has a guaranteed contract beyond next season -- the left-hander Jon Niese, who signed a five-year, $25.5 million deal in April. The Mets are not used to such flexibility, but the question is what they will do with it. Niese, for one, is interested.

Jeff Curry/Getty Images
Matt Harvey's final 2012 start is scheduled for tonight.

“I signed that deal because I thought it was in everybody’s best interest, including myself,” said Niese, who is 11-9 with a 3.46 earned run average. “That’s what I wanted to do, I wanted that financial security and that feeling of not having to worry about anything besides pitching, and I think that’s helped me out a lot this year. Obviously, with R. A.’s situation and David’s situation, I am curious to see what’s going to happen. And even beyond R. A. and David, I’m kind of interested to see what else we do to improve the team.”

• Harvey understands the decision to shut him down after this outing. But, like Stephen Strasburg with the Washington Nationals, that does not mean he is ecstatic about not completing the season in the rotation. Read more in the Record.

Ruben Tejada and Manny Acosta will represent Panama in World Baseball Classic qualifying from Nov. 15-19 in their native country. Afterward, Tejada said, he plans to return to New York to train with Jose Reyes at a Garden City, Long Island, facility. The Mets have five farmhands participating in WBC qualifying this week -- Josh Satin and Jeff Kaplan with Israel in Jupiter, Fla., and Adam Loewen (Canada), Kai Gronauer (Germany) and Hamilton Bennett (Great Britain) in Regensburg, Germany.

• The Mets added seats in foul territory behind home plate at Citi Field to test out the configuration for next year's All-Star Game.

• The mayors of Boston and New York are declaring "Knuckleball Day" this week in their cities to coincide with the official release of the documentary that focuses on Tim Wakefield and Dickey. Read more in Newsday.

Jeremy Hefner will reenter the rotation Wednesday. Collin McHugh also will get another start, according to Collins. The manager would like to see Jeurys Familia continue in a relief role for now, since that is the rookie's likely 2013 role with the major league club. Still, Familia may get a start the last week of the season. Read more in Newsday.

• Triple-A pitching coach Mark Brewer will not be retained by the organization, Sandy Alderson told Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger.

TRIVIA: Who was involved in the last trade between the Mets and Phillies?

Monday's answer: Since the trade of Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers, John Mayberry Jr. has been the Phillies' primary center fielder.

Mets morning briefing 9.17.12

September, 17, 2012
Chris Young surrendered three solo homers, including Ryan Braun's 39th and 40th long balls of the season, and the Mets lost Sunday's rubber game at Milwaukee, 3-0.

Benny Sieu/US Presswire
Ryan Braun homered twice Sunday against Chris Young.

The Mets' tragic number for postseason elimination dropped to six as they return home for their final 2012 homestand -- 10 games against the Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates.

R.A. Dickey aims for win No. 19 in Monday's homestand opener, when he opposes Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee. Dickey has four starts remaining, including tonight, to try to produce two wins and become the Mets' first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990. If the pattern of pitching every fifth game holds, the knuckleballer also is due to face the Marlins on Sunday at Citi Field, then pitch at Atlanta on Sept. 28 and at Miami in the regular-season finale on Oct. 3.

Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, another Cy Young Award candidate, failed in his attempt to notch his 20th win Sunday night, as the Atlanta Braves beat the Nats, 5-1. Gonzalez, who allowed two runs in five innings, is now 19-8 with a 2.95 ERA.

The Phillies, who oppose Dickey tonight, arrive at Citi Field having lost three of four to Houston this weekend. They are four games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card slot.

Because of an innings cap, Matt Harvey (3-5, 2.92 ERA) makes his final 2012 start Tuesday, opposite right-hander Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 4.95). Cole Hamels (15-6, 3.06) handles Wednesday's series finale for the Phillies.

Monday's news reports:

• Major league clubs and minor league teams began a 15-day window Sunday to seek new affiliation agreements. As expected, the Toronto Blue Jays and Triple-A Buffalo Bisons spoke and appear to be nearing a deal. That would push the Mets to the lone vacant affiliate, Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League, which has been the home of the Blue Jays.

The Las Vegas skyline looks like it will become a familiar sight to Mets' Triple-A players.

Why did the Bisons want the Mets out of Buffalo? For one thing, their attendance slid each season during the four-year affiliation, to an all-time-low 515,000 in 2012. That partly had to do with the Mets' record. Over the four years of the affiliation, Mets farmhands went 260-313 in Triple-A. According to Bisons beat writer Mike Harrington, that was the third-worst winning percentage (.454) by an MLB club's farmhands in all of Triple-A over that four-year period, better than only the Twins with Rochester at .424 and the Padres with Portland and Tucson at .417.

"I would never question the Mets' effort, especially this year," Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski told Harrington in the Buffalo News. "They made a real effort to sign players, to keep our roster full. They did a lot of things to make us successful. It didn't just translate to victories. ... We get a bad rap that we're demanding a championship team. That's not what we're saying. We need a competitive team. Win more than you lose. Play some games in August that mean something."

Buffalo will be the second International League city to boot the Mets in the past six years. Norfolk kicked the Mets out after the 2006 season.

Jeurys Familia, originally slated for his first major league start Wednesday, will remain in the bullpen. Terry Collins has liked what he has seen out of Familia in relief and will keep him in that role, especially since Familia would be more likely to break camp with the Mets out of spring training next season in the bullpen. Collin McHugh or Jeremy Hefner instead should take Wednesday's start opposite Hamels. Collins indicated postgame Sunday that Hefner was the likely starter. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

• Rookie Wily Peralta and John Axford combined to limit the Mets to two singles and two walks as the Mets were shut out for the 11th time this season on Sunday. "Two hits isn't going to get us very far," Collins said. Read Sunday recaps in the Times, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record, Post and Daily News.

TRIVIA: Who has started the most games in center field for the Phillies since the trade of Shane Victorino to the Dodgers?

Sunday's answer: The Brewers moved from the AL to the NL in 1998, coinciding with the launches of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Mets expect to be booted from Buffalo

August, 19, 2012
WASHINGTON -- Triple-A manager Wally Backman told Bisons beat writer Mike Harrington that the Mets are expecting to be booted from Buffalo at season's end, after a four-year player-development affiliation.

"It's a shame for us, really," Backman told Harrington in the Buffalo News. "Buffalo is a great city but I don't envision us coming back, from the things I've heard from the grapevine."

A source confirmed to that Backman's assessment is "not far off."

This would mark the second time in recent years the Mets have been booted by their Triple-A affiliate.

They had a four-decade relationship severed by Norfolk after the 2006 season because the Tides became disenchanted with the quality of the product and the attention given by the Mets.

The Norfolk departure led to the Mets ending up with New Orleans in the West Coast-dominated Pacific Coast League for two seasons. That geographic dynamic makes it more challenging for the Mets to get players quickly to the major league club.

Buffalo presumably would align with the Blue Jays. That potentially would leave the Mets in the PCL with Las Vegas, which is Toronto's current affiliate. (MLB clubs cannot place a team anywhere; they have to affiliate with an existing Triple-A market.)

Since Buffalo received disproportionate media/marketing attention from being affiliated with a New York ballclub, dumping the Mets is a major rebuke of the organization.

The Bisons' attendance steadily has decreased, with Buffalo struggling to win during the four-year relationship. With a loss Sunday to Pawtucket, Buffalo has a .456 winning percentage (255-304) in four seasons as a Mets affiliate.

Mets morning briefing 3.10.12

March, 10, 2012
The Mets head north on I-95 to Viera to face the Washington Nationals on Saturday, with R.A. Dickey on the mound.

Saturday's news reports:

• Judge Jed S. Rakoff set the parameters for the March 19 civil trial against Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon, his family, businesses and charities. A nine-person jury will decide how much, if anything, to award trustee Irving Picard of the $303 million he seeks in principal the Wilpons invested with Bernard Madoff in the two years before the swindler's arrest. Picard must convince jurors the Wilpons were "willfully blind" to the fraud and acted in "bad faith" in order to collect that amount. The trustee already has been awarded as a matter of law as much as $83 million by Rakoff pre-trial -- the profits in the two years before Madoff's arrest. After a quick jury selection on Day 1, the trial is expected to last 10 days. Court is scheduled to be in session during business hours Monday through Thursday. Read more in the Times, Newsday and Daily News.

Matt Harvey tossed a pair of perfect innings and Matt den Dekker delivered a tiebreaking two-run triple in the eighth as the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves, 5-3, Friday at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Read more in the Record.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger notes that Harvey's control wasn't precise, but he got the job done. Writes McCullough:

The count ran full to the Atlanta Braves' Jason Heyward. Catcher Josh Thole called for a four-seamer inside to tie up Heyward’s hands. "I didn’t really mean to go up that high with Heyward," Harvey said, as his team wrapped up a 5-3 victory. "I was trying to go in. But ..." But Heyward still waved at the pitch, which popped on the stadium gun at 95 mph as it buzzed the upper region of the strike zone. And therein lies the rub: Harvey's stuff appears capable of getting out major-league hitters. In his first inning, he retired veteran slugger Chipper Jones on grounder , recorded a flyout from former Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske, then whiffed Heyward.

• A reunion between Chris Young and the Mets is expected to materialize, Andy Martino reports in the Daily News. Young -- reportedly also considering the San Diego Padres -- supposedly is feeling strong. However, he underwent last May the same surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule that Johan Santana did the previous September. So there is no assurance of a 2012 contribution. Young made only four starts for the Mets last season before the shoulder woes ended his season. He received a base salary of $1.1 million despite the limited workload.

Lucas Duda was pulled from Friday's trip to Disney, but Terry Collins said he expected the right fielder on the bus for Viera to face the Nats today. Similarly, Andres Torres, who was dealing with a tight right glute, is expected on the trip. Read more in the Post.

• Ex-Met Jason Pridie will be suspended 50 games for use of a recreation drug, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

• A day after now-sidearm-throwing southpaw C.J. Nitkowski auditioned for the Mets, a team official said the organization had "not ruled out" signing him. But, the official added, Nitkowski almost assuredly would go directly to minor league camp if he were signed.

• Santana returns to the mound Sunday, but he apparently will not face former teammate Jose Reyes.

• The Mets' Triple-A Buffalo affiliate will play at Fenway Park against Pawtucket on Aug. 18 as part of a minor league doubleheader.

Neil Best in Newsday notes the April 18-29 Tribeca film festival not only includes the documentary "Knuckleball!" featuring R.A. Dickey, but also "Benji, about the ill-fated Chicago prep basketball star of the early 80s, Ben Wilson, and Broke, about the many sports figures who have gone astray financially."

Jason Bay is trying to revert to his old Pittsburgh-era swing. So far he is 0-for-5 with three walks and two strikeouts in Grapefruit League play. "It's tough when you're trying to work on things and people are trying to get you out," Bay told David Lennon in Newsday. "It's not batting practice. I think for right now, it's just about getting used to game speed -- getting used to seeing 95 and getting your timing down. Trusting what you do in the cage and not trying to think too much out there."

Writes columnist Joel Sherman in the Post about Bay:

Let’s give Jason Bay this benefit of the doubt because -- if nothing else -- the Mets certainly believe his failure as a Met is about caring too much, not too little. It is about the left fielder falling into a hole instantly in 2010 and losing confidence while gaining advice. It is about a destructive cycle of wanting to please so much that too many voices got beyond the velvet rope in his brain, too much counsel was heeded to tinker here and readjust there. His ears became a meeting place for the well intentioned to feed a series of recommendations that worked as harmoniously with one another as oil and water. Executives around the Mets couldn’t remember an accomplished player who turned every at-bat into a mandate on the positioning of his hands, the angling of a foot.

Adam Loewen discusses with Mike Puma in the Post making the switch from pitching to the outfield after suffering a second stress fracture in his left elbow. "Three years ago I made the switch, and it was actually an exciting time for me because I had a new life," the 6-foot-6 Loewen told Puma. "As much as it was heartbreaking not being able to pitch anymore, it was exciting to have that second chance and progress enough to think I could make it back to the big leagues."

Loewen and Mike Baxter currently are vying for a lefty-hitting backup outfield job, although the Mets very well also could pick someone else up near the end of spring training. At present, Loewen may have a leg up on Baxter in part because Loewen can play center field, whereas Baxter does not. Both play first base. Backing up in center field should not have been a requisite, but righty-hitting Scott Hairston (oblique) is starting to appear likely to open the season on the disabled list, leaving a void as a fill-in for Andres Torres.

Brian Costa in the Journal looks at the Puerto Rican Torres' offseason spent partly in the Dominican Republic, where he worked with Yankee Robinson Cano and his father. Cano met Torres on the MLB All-Star Tour of Taiwan in November and invited him to work out with them. They worked on refraining from lunging at balls. With the San Francisco Giants last season, Carlos Beltran also offered Torres advice, telling him he was too close to the plate and using too heavy a bat. Now, hitting coach Dave Hudgens has advice for Torres as well. Torres, who is slated to be the Mets' leadoff hitter, had his on-base percentage plummet 31 points, to .312, last season. Writes Costa:

Hudgens saw two things that concerned him. The first was an inability to stay on top of the ball, which made him prone to weak pop-ups. The second issue was lapses in plate discipline. Torres swung at a career-high 31% of pitches outside the strike zone last season. The Mets want him to be more selective and work the count better, and they told him as much during an early spring meeting with Hudgens, manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson. They'll find out soon enough whether he can heed all the advice. "I know people look at me like, 'I saw you last year, and you didn't have it,'" Torres said. "But I feel really good right now."

Mike Kerwick in the Record checks in on the acclimation progress of new double-play tandem Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy. Writes Kerwick:

Their color choices were strikingly different, separate hues for separate personalities. Tejada leans on Spanish; Murphy speaks English. Tejada spent his life studying to be a middle infielder; Murphy is taking his first serious stab at it. But the chemistry between these two middle infielders -- Tejada at shortstop, Murphy at second -- will help define the Mets’ defense this season. "It's almost a courtship kind of thing," joked Mets third base coach Tim Teufel. "They're getting to know each other, their likes and dislikes."

Ken Belson in the Times notes today is the 50th anniversary of the franchise's first spring-training game. And Belson writes about the radio recording that captures it:

But what is somewhat intriguing is the identity of the first announcer to greet listeners of the game’s radio broadcast. It wasn’t Ralph Kiner or Bob Murphy or Lindsey Nelson, all of whom were on hand for the start of what would be their long collaboration chronicling the team’s fortunes. Instead, the first voice coming out of the radio belonged to none other than Howard Cosell, still emerging at that point as a larger-than-life personality in American sports.

Andrew Keh in the Times notes that Pedro Beato cuts his teammates' hair, even though a professional barber also visits the Mets periodically. Writes Keh:

On Friday morning, a New York Times reporter in need of a haircut became Beato’s latest customer. It was 6:45, the sun was just coming up, and Beato set up shop near the Mets’ dugout, his clubhouse stool transformed into a barber’s chair. "Tell me what you want on the sides," Beato said as he went through his accessory bag, looking for the proper comb attachment for his electric clippers. "You look like you need a four." Like any experienced barber, he mixed stern commands -- "Keep your head down for a second" -- with just the right amount of small talk. The customer’s interests were paramount, but he was quick to offer his own insight.

(Hopefully this won't be "Barber of Sheaville, Part II." Google Rey Sanchez and "haircut during game" if you don't understand the reference.)

TRIVIA: Eight players have produced a three-homer game in franchise history. Can you name at least one Met from each decade who accomplished the feat?

(Friday's answer: Roy Halladay is the lone active major league pitcher who has at least 125 decisions and also a better winning percentage than Santana. Halladay has a .671 winning percentage (188-92), to Santana's .658 (133-69). Justin Verlander (.652), Tim Hudson (.651) and CC Sabathia (.647) round out the top five.)

AAA Bisons to visit Fenway Park

March, 9, 2012
A season after the Binghamton Mets had the chance to play at Fenway Park against the Red Sox's Double-A affiliate, Triple-A Buffalo will get that honor. The Bisons will face Pawtucket on Aug. 18, as part of a doubleheader with Class A Lowell (Red Sox) and Hudson Valley (Rays).

Tickets go on sale March 17 at 10 a.m. at www. or by calling 877-REDSOX9.

Mets prospect Collin McHugh wrote about the opportunity to pitch at Fenway Park last season with the B-Mets in this Aug. 29 blog entry.

Buffalo may boot Mets

November, 14, 2011
The New York Mets, who were booted from Norfolk, Va., after the 2006 season, may be in for the same fate in Buffalo after the 2012 campaign.

The Mets' second two-year player-development agreement with Buffalo expires after the 2012 season. And dissatisfaction with the product the Mets are supplying has the Bisons leaning toward switching affiliations when the current agreement expires, according to industry sources.

The Mets were able to smooth things over with Buffalo and keep them as an affiliate after the original two-year agreement expired because of Terry Collins' hiring to oversee the minors in 2010 and his popularity in Buffalo. Collins managed the Bisons when they were affiliated with the Pirates.

When the Mets were booted from Norfolk, they ended up in New Orleans in the Pacific Coast League for two years -- which was undesirable for travel.

The Mets have produced records of 56-87, 76-68 and 61-82 in three seasons in Buffalo. And word is they're not throwing around a ton of money to minor league free agents this offseason.

F-Mart to DL, Luis AAA active

April, 15, 2011
Outfielder Fernando Martinez landed on the disabled list with Triple-A Buffalo due to a right hamstring strain. Infielder Luis Hernandez took Martinez's roster spot with the Bisons.

Hernandez cleared waivers at the end of spring training after failing to make the 25-man roster and agreed to remain with the organization. He's expected to primarily play second base with Buffalo.

Martinez, 22, has averaged only 78 games a professional regular season because of assorted injuries.

Video: Teufel on Bisons' highlights

April, 15, 2011

Triple-A Buffalo manager Tim Teufel speaks with's Adam Rubin about right-hander Jenrry Mejia's back-to-back scoreless starts to open the season, the crowded outfield, and Ruben Tejada's quick start after a return to shortstop.

Bisons release spring schedule

January, 31, 2011
Spring-training games don't just include the major league clubs. Here is the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons' schedule:

March 17, New Orleans (Marlins), at Jupiter
March 18, Memphis (Cardinals), at Port St. Lucie
March 20, New Orleans, at Jupiter
March 21, Memphis, at Jupiter
March 22, Syracuse (Nationals), at Viera
March 23, New Orleans, at Port St. Lucie
March 24, Memphis, at Port St. Lucie
March 26, New Orleans, at Port St. Lucie
March 27, Memphis, at Jupiter
March 28, Syracuse, at Port St. Lucie
March 29, New Orleans, at Jupiter
March 30, Memphis, at Port St. Lucie
April 1, New Orleans, at Port St. Lucie

Official: Teufel to Buffalo, with 'Hitman'

January, 21, 2011

Courtesy of Buffalo Bisons
New Bisons manager Tim Teufel

The Buffalo Bisons, the Triple-A affiliate of the Mets, made it official Friday. The International League club named '86 Met Tim Teufel its new manager. Teufel succeeds Ken Oberkfell, who has been promoted to Mets bench coach.

Teufel managed Double-A Binghamton last season. He has managed a total of six seasons in the Mets minor league system, with other stops in Brooklyn, Savannah and St. Lucie.

Mike Easler will serve as hitting coach and Ricky Bones will remain pitching coach.

Wally Backman is expected to be named the new Binghamton manager, jumping from Brooklyn.

Here is the bio on Easler, a new addition to the organization, directly from the Bisons release:

Easler is entering his first season in the Mets organization. Since his retirement in 1988, he’s served as the hitting coach for Milwaukee (1992), Boston (1993) and St. Louis (1999-2001). He joined the Lost Angeles Dodgers organization in 2006 as the hitting coach at Double-A Jacksonville and moved onto Triple-A Las Vegas in 2007. He split the 2008 season as the Dodgers hitting coach and the organization’s minor league hitting instructor.

Nicknamed "The Hitman” during his 14-year big league career, Easler averaged .293 with 118 home runs and 522RBI in 1,151 major league games with Houston, California, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and the New York Yankees. The outfielder was a National League All-Star with Pittsburgh in 1981 and was part of the 1979 World Series Champion Pirates team.

Buffalo sticks with Mets

July, 21, 2010
The Buffalo Bisons have decided to remain Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets at least through 2012. The organizations signed a two-year extension of their current player-development agreement.

The Mets went 56-87 in their first year in Buffalo in 2009, but have signed several veterans to bolster the Triple-A club this year. The Mets spent four decades in Norfolk before getting booted following the '06 season. The Mets then spent two years in the Pacific Coast League with New Orleans before having the opportunity to affiliate with a more sensible geographic partner.

“The Mets have proven to our organization and our baseball fans that they care about winning and the team they put on the field in Buffalo,” said Bob Rich, owner of the Buffalo Bisons. “The success that many Bisons players have had this season in Buffalo and then in New York has been vital to the success of both teams.”

Feliciano eclipses .400 with Bisons

May, 31, 2010

Doug Benc/Getty Images
Jesus Feliciano lifted his average to .403 with the Mets' Triple-A affiliate by going 5-for-5 on Sunday.

Outfielder Jesus Feliciano hit better than .300 each of the previous three seasons with the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate. This season, he’s performing even better.

Yes, better.

Feliciano went 5-for-5 for the Buffalo Bisons on Sunday, lifting his International League average to .403 through 159 at-bats.

The performance came with his father, a legendary Puerto Rican left-handed pitcher also named Jesus, watching in person in Buffalo.

“I had a great winter-league year, including the Caribbean Series. I won the batting title there,” Feliciano said. “I prepared myself to have a good year. You don’t think it’s going to be a year like the year I’m having right now, but I was expecting to have a good year.”

Feliciano hit .315 in 2007 and .308 in ’08 with New Orleans, then the Mets’ top affiliate. Last year with Buffalo, he hit .311. Yet Feliciano, who turns 31 on June 6, has never appeared in the majors.

The Bayamon, Puerto Rico, native originally was picked in the 36th round in 1997 by the Los Angeles Dodgers. After six full years with that organization, he signed as a minor league free agent with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Struggling at the plate there, he attempted to become a pitcher, like his father. The encouragement partly came from Mako Oliveras, then his Double-A manager. Oliveras later served for multiple seasons as the Mets’ Double-A skipper.

“I pitched until I was like 18 years old, and people thought that I was going to become a pitcher. But I thought that I picked right playing in the outfield because I thought my body wouldn’t support my arm,” said Feliciano, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and also left-handed. “I decided to play the outfield. But then after, I think, my sixth year in professional baseball, I wasn’t doing too good. I wasn’t having the chance I was expecting. My agent and Mako and some of the Tampa Bay organization thought that I could pitch. And I pitched until I hurt my elbow and I had to stop doing that. And then I went back to winter league that same year and I won the batting title in Puerto Rico. That’s how baseball is. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Count Mets infielder Alex Cora among the fans who believe Feliciano could be successful in the majors if he got a break. Cora, who also hails from Puerto Rico, witnesses firsthand Feliciano’s prowess during the World Baseball Classic.

Feliciano, who believes he was the lone position player on the Puerto Rican WBC team not to have major league experience, hit .375 in six games in the ’09 WBC.

“He’s one of these guys, you’ve got to see him play every day to really appreciate what he does,” Cora said. “He’s not the fastest guy. He doesn’t have power. Whatever. But day in and day out he’ll do something to help the team win. I’ve seen it firsthand. I saw it in winter ball and then I saw it in the WBC. Since three or four years ago, he hasn’t stopped hitting. He gets the barrel to the ball. I don’t like comparing players, but it’s just like Dustin (Pedroia), I think. They see him as an awkward swing, but they find a way for the barrel to square the ball up. That’s what he does.

“His journey in baseball has been from L.A. to ending up in Tampa Bay -- they almost made him a pitcher -- and then he went to Mexico and all that. It’s been a tough road. Am I surprised the last few years that he hasn’t gotten a shot? Yes, I’ve been. But that’s the nature of baseball. The good thing about him, he understands. He’s patient enough. I know sooner or later he’s going to get a shot.”

How has someone poised to hit better than .300 for a fourth straight year at Triple-A never appeared in a major league game?

“Sometimes you think about stuff like that, but as soon as I start thinking about that, I just have to step back and think that I just have to keep working hard the way I’ve been doing all these years,” Feliciano said.

As for Feliciano’s father, Cora calls him “a legend back home.”

“I feel really proud of what he has done for the Puerto Rico national team,” Feliciano said. “I learned a lot of the game because of him. He carried the flag in the Olympics in 1988 in Seoul, Korea. I saw him a lot of times pitching. He was the best. He beat the USA team three times. Back in the day, he faced Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Steve Finley -- all of those guys. It’s good to remember all those years that he had. He pitched a lot of strikes. A lefty. I went with him to a couple of series when he played in the World Cup back, I think it was, in ’87 in the Netherlands. I remember a lot of years that he pitched.”

The elder Feliciano never signed with a major league team, though.

“He never played professional ball,” Feliciano said. “When he had the opportunity to sign, he was like 23, and he thought he was too old by then. And back then, the amateur baseball in Puerto Rico was a real good league. The guys made good money. It’s not comparable to professional ball, but you can take care of your family and have a nice life over there. So he decided not to sign. Later on, he looked back and he thought he could have signed.”

As for Feliciano, he’s confronting the reputation that he’s a “4A” player -- essentially too good for Triple-A, but not equipped with major league tools. A Mets official suggested it would be hard to deny Feliciano an opportunity if this production continues, but the official noted Feliciano doesn’t have enough speed to play center field with any regularity. Feliciano also primarily is a singles and doubles hitter. He has 11 doubles, one triple, one homer, 17 RBIs and six steals in 47 games with the Bisons this season.

“I’m a guy that creates situations. I make a lot of contact,” Feliciano said. “I’ve got a good plan when I go up to hit. That’s why I’ve been so successful in the last few years. I got to know my game. Sometimes, as a hitter, you just go out there and swing the bat. I think you have to know how to play the game. I think the last couple of years I’m getting better in my game. I’m not trying to do too much. I make contact, have good at-bats, make the pitcher pitch and get your pitches and have a good plan.

“The other thing is I’m not afraid to hit with two strikes. Sometimes as a hitter you worry about swinging at the first pitch and stuff like that. I’m not afraid of hitting with two strikes.”

Strasburg next draws Bisons

May, 30, 2010
Stephen Strasburg’s next assignment: the top-hitting team in the International League.

The 2009 first overall pick is scheduled to face Buffalo, the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, in a 1 p.m. game Thursday, which already had been scheduled to be carried by SNY on a Mets off-day.

Strasburg is 3-1 with a 1.27 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings in five Triple-A starts. He allowed three runs and six hits, including his first professional homer to Rene Rivera, in five-plus innings Saturday against the Yankees’ affiliate, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Through 50 games, Buffalo had the best team average (.287) in the league.

Video: Obie on Triple-A Bisons

May, 24, 2010

Triple-A Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell discusses catcher Josh Thole's renewed success at the plate as well as slugger Mike Hessman's International League-leading RBI total and right-hander Dillon Gee, who has returned solidly from a 2009 shoulder injury.



Daniel Murphy
.289 9 57 79
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
WB. Colon 15
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187