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Wednesday, April 2, 2014
With spring finally sprung, America's pastime is back on the field. And the Buffalo Bisons start their season on Thursday at Coca-Cola Field on Thursday.

The Bisons, Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, announced their 2014 Opening Day Roster on Monday. With a new manager in Gary Allenson, the Herd kicks off their season against the Rochester Red Wings with a 2:05 start time.

Allenson has named RHP Marcus Stroman as his Opening Day starting pitcher. Stroman, 22, is in his third professional season after being selected by the Blue Jays in the 1st round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Last year, he went 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 20 games for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He struck out 129 batters in only 111.2 innings of work and tied the Fisher Cats single-game strikeout record by recording 13 on two occasions. He is ranked the #2 prospect in Toronto's organization by Baseball America.

The pitching rotation also includes LHP Sean Nolin, rated the #10 top prospect in the Blue Jays system. Nolin enters his fifth year as a pro with a career .676 winning percentage (24-11); RHP Kyle Drabek, the Jays #1 prospect a few seasons ago; LHP Ricky Romero, who threw 81 strikeouts for the Bisons last year and was an American League All-Star in 2011; and RHP Liam Hendriks, who won 17 International League games as a starter with Rochester from 2011-2013.

In the bullpen, RHP Neil Wagner returns as the Bisons closer. The righty was arguably the best pitcher in the International League for the first two months of 2013, posting a 0.76 ERA and going 16-for-16 in save changes before receiving a promotion to Toronto. Returning as set up men are RHP John Stilson, RHP Mickey Storey, RHP Chad Jenkins, RHP Marcus Walden, RHP Ryan Tepera and LHP Rob Rasmussen.

The Bisons outfield will also feature two of the Blue Jays brightest stars. Kevin Pillar was given the Blue Jays' 2013 'Webster Award' as the club's top minor league player. Pillar rocketed up the chain last year to make his big league debut after hitting .299 with 27 extra-base hits in only 52 games with the Bisons. Meanwhile Anthony Gose led the Bisons with 64 runs and five triples last year while finishing 2nd in the International League with 15 outfield assists. Others include Matt Tuiasosopo, Brett Carroll and Ricardo Nanita.

On the infield, Dan Johnson is set to make his Bisons debut. Arguably the most consistent power hitter over the last five years in the International League, Johnson was an IL MVP in 2010 and his 20 or more home runs fourth times in the league.  Andy LaRoche returns to the Bisons after hitting 12 homers and driving in 51 a season ago. Jared Goedert ranked third in the International League with 32 doubles in 2013 while playing for Indianapolis. Jonathan Diaz is one of the league's top defenders and made just five errors in 785.2 combined innings at second base, third base and shortstop for the IL North division champion Pawtucket Red Sox last year. Eight-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star, Munenori Kawasaki brings his fun-loving approach to the game back to Buffalo in 2014 and Chris Getz picked up 16 of his career 87 MLB stolen bases with the Kansas City Royals last season.

Behind the plate, Mike Nickeas will tie outfielder Jason Cooper's modern-era club record by playing for the club in six straight seasons. Last year, Nickeas was voted by his Bisons teammates as the club's Most Inspirational Player. Jack Murphy made his Triple-A debut at the end of the Herd's season last year after hitting 11 doubles and driving in 22 in 56 games with New Hampshire (AA).

Exciting things are happening off the field, too.

Coca-Cola Field now features a new 120-Speaker Distributed Sound System that will provide crisp and even music and announcements to all Bisons fans no matter where they are in the ballpark. Two new state-of-the-art 50-Foot Full-Video LED Message Boards will immerse fans with up-to-the-second game and promotional information. The creation of a new Champions Suite will give fans another unique area to enjoy while viewing a Bisons game and an Expanded Ballpark Menu, including the addition of Hamburg Brewery Craft Beers, will feature new delights in both Pettibones Grille Restaurant and various concession stands.

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