Gee Opening-Day Starter For Bisons On Thursday

The Buffalo Bisons announced their 2011 Opening Day Roster today. The Herd will open the 2011 season on Thursday, April 7 against the Syracuse Chiefs at Coca-Cola Field (3:05 p.m.).

The 2011 Bisons will feature 19 players with major league experience, including 12 that played at the game’s top level last season. That list includes nine players who spent time with the Mets in 2010.

As the Mets did with Pelfrey, the Bisons will hand the Opening Day starting job to, RHP Dillon Gee, who, as you may remember, struck out a modern era single-season record 165 batters last season. He will be joined in a star-studded starting rotation by Mets top prospect, 21-year old RHP Jenrry Mejia, and former big leaguers, RHP Boof Bonser and LHP Casey Fossum. Sounds like a bunch of nothings behind Gee and Mejia.

The Bisons outfield contains most of the same from last season. Fernando Martinez has hit 20 home runs with the team over the past two years. Jesus Feliciano has the second-highest average (.323) in the Bisons’ modern era. And the new starting outfielder, replacing Duda, is Kirk Niewenhuis who hit 18 home runs between Double-A and the Bisons last season and rounding it out is Jason Pridie who led the 2010 Herd with nine stolen bases. So you’ve got three players who the Mets looked at, and tossed back to the minors. F-Mart is really starting to run his line with fans’ trust.

The infield will consist of Mets second base contender, Justin Turner who finished fifth in the International League with a .316 average between the Bisons and Norfolk last season. He’ll be joined by Ruben Tejada, who hit .280 in 65 games with Buffalo in 2010. Russ Adams who led last year’s club with 58 RBIs and infielder Valentino Pasucci arrived later in the season to the Bisons, clubbed 17 home runs in Buffalo. Fresh from spring training, Zach Lutz hit 17 home runs with Binghamton before his last season promotion to the Bisons and rounding it out is the surprising player who passed through waivers recently, Nick Evans who hit .314 in 37 games with the Bisons in 2010. GO EVANS!!

The catching duties in 2011 will be split between 38-year old veteran Raul Chavez and Triple-A rookie Salomon Mantiquez.

In the bullpen, the Bisons return their top two relievers from a season ago. Spring Training invitees Mike O’Connor who fanned 70 in 70.2 innings of work, while RHP Jose de la Torre posted a 2.98ERA in 36 relief appearances. Six-time minor league All-Star, RHP Dale Thayer joins the Herd from the Rays’ organization. RHP Manny Alvarez, LHP Justin Hampson, RHP Ryota Igarashi and RHP Taylor Tankersley round out the club’s bullpen.

Mike Nickeas, and Lucas Duda are likely to rejoin the Herd once Paulino is allowed to play again, and Bay is healthy once more. My guess is the first players to join the Mets this season in emergency reasons are (in order): Evans, Mejia, Gee, Turner, O’Connor, and maybe Iggy.

Good luck Herd!