Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The Buffalo Bisons, Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, on Thursday announced their 2012 Opening Day Roster.
Led by new manager Wally Backman, the Herd will open the 2012 season in Pawtucket on Thursday night against the Red Sox at McCoy Stadium (7:05 p.m.).
Opening Day in Buffalo is set for Wednesday, April 11 against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees at Coca-Cola Field (2:05 p.m.)
The Bisons top position player and pitcher from a season ago have returned to Buffalo. Bisons 2011 MVP infielder Valentino Pascucci led the Herd in virtually every offensive category and ranked in the top 10 in the IL with 21 home runs, 91RBI, 76 walks and a .375 on-base percentage. RHP Chris Schwinden was the Bisons 2011 Most Valuable Pitcher after posting the third-highest single-season strikeout total (134) in the club’s modern era.
Joining Schwinden in the team’s starting rotation are two of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Opening Day starter RHP Matt Harvey (#2 Mets prospect, Baseball America) led all Mets minor leaguers with 156 strikeouts in 2011 in just his first season as a pro. RHP Jeurys Familia (#4 Mets prospect, Baseball America) won the 2011 Sterling Award as the top player at Double-A Binghamton after striking out 96 in only 87.2 innings of work over 17 starts.
The rotation is rounded out by LHP Garrett Olson, who has big league time with Baltimore, Seattle and Pittsburgh, and RHP Jeremy Hefner, who has won at least nine games in each of the past four seasons in the San Diego Padres’ system.
Seventeen of the 25 players on the 2012 Bisons Opening Day Roster have major league experience while 12 have spent time in Buffalo at some point during their career. Starting in 2012, all International League teams will be allowed to career 25 active players on their roster (up from 24).
Returnees to the lineup include INF Josh Satin, who hit .317 in 38 games with Buffalo last season en route to being named the Mets’ minor league player of the year. OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit .298 in 53 games with the Herd last year, while INF Zach Lutz averaged .295 with 11 home runs in 61 games with the Bisons in 2011. Herd fans also caught glimpses of INF Jordany Valdespin (.280 in 27 games) and INF Michael Fisher (.259 in 66 games) last year.
New to the lineup include OF Vinny Rottino, who boasts a career .294 average in 1,044 minor league games. OF Adam Loewen was sixth in all minor league baseball last year with 44 doubles while playing for Triple-A Las Vegas. OF Matt Tuiasosopo clubbed 14 home runs and drove home 77 for Triple-A Tacoma in 2011.
Veteran depth can also be found on the infield with former Colorado Rockie and Texas Ranger INF Omar Quintanilla as well as newcomer INF Bobby Scales, who was just signed by the Mets on Sunday.
The catching duties in 2012 will be split between C Lucas May, who hit 10 home runs between Triple-A Reno and Omaha last year, and C Rob Johnson, who has played 208 big league games over the past three seasons.
The Bisons bullpen will feature many familiar names, some more recent than others. A member of the 2004 IL Governors’ Cup Champion Bisons, RHP Fernando Cabrera is back. The veteran righty has more career strikeouts (173) than any Bisons reliever in the modern era. Returning from the 2008 Herd is RHP Jeff Stevens, who saved five games over 19 outings in 2008 before leaving the team to win Bronze at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
From the 2011 Bisons, LHP Justin Hampson ranked second on last year’s club with 51 appearances while RHP Dylan Owen collected 91 strikeouts. RHP Jack Egbert made four starts and three relief appearances last year for the Herd.
The only members of the bullpen without Bisons ties are IL veteran LHP Chuck James and RHP Daniel Herrera. James posted a 2.30 ERA in 38 games with the Rochester Red Wings a season ago while Herrera was unscored upon in 15 of 16 appearances for the Mets in 2011.