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Rochester Plays the Pettitte Card

The 42-year-old Andy Pettitte made his fifth and final minor league start with Triple-A Empire State (formerly Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) Yankees on Sunday May 6 at Rochester’s Frontier Field.

There was just one problem. Well, actually, multiple problems. As the baseball world knows full well by now, the Empire State Yankees are playing on the road in multiple venues this season due to renovations at PNC Field in Moosic, Pa.

Frontier Field, which the Empire State Yankees are calling “home” for 37 games, was supposed to be hosting a two-game set between the Rochester Red Wings and Buffalo Bisons May 5-6. But on Thursday, that Wings-Bisons series was switched to a doubleheader that was played on Saturday so that Frontier Field could be free for Pettitte’s appearance on Sunday. The Yankees were slated to play Pawtucket at Dwyer Stadium, home of the Batavia Muckdogs of the Class Single A New York-Penn League on Sunday, May 6. But the New York Yankees balked, and understandably so, over the thought of Pettitte pitching on a Single-A field which the conditions are vastly below the Triple-A standards. Red Wings general manager Dan Mason set the wheels in motion with all of the clubs and the International League.

The scenario worked out well for the Bisons as they get an extra day off before embarking on the rest of their 10-day road trip that includes four-game sets in Gwinnet County (Ga.) and Charlotte. The Bisons had a 4:30 a.m. Monday flight to Atlanta, which also played a factor. Changing Rochester-Buffalo to an earlier start, say 9 a.m. Sunday and doing a Buffalo-Rochester, Empire State-Pawtucket doubleheader, wasn’t a feasible option because the New York Yankees didn’t want to risk Pettitte having to wait out an extra inning game. The Bisons’ early flight Monday meant they weren’t going to go for playing a later game Sunday. Bisons General Manager Mike Buczkowski said that he spoke with manager Wally Backman and Mets player development director Adam Wogan, and they agreed their were no objections and that playing a doubleheader of two seven inning games instead of trying to squeeze in a second game Sunday was the best option.

“As a true baseball manager does, (Backman) starts calculating,” Buczkowski said. “It’s 14 innings instead of 18 innings.  And it’s a day off before having to go to the airport at 4:30 in the morning for a long travel down to Atlanta.”

Backman said when you look at the whole picture, this plays out as a plus for his team.

“There’s no question. No question,” he said. “The day off helps us. Being able to bring (Garrett) Olsen up a day early (to start Game 2), he only threw 81 pitches his last time out. He’s really probably the only guy we would do that with. He was the one who came to us and said he could do it … It really sets up nice for us.”

However, the doubleheader didn’t end well for Buffalo, which was swept in the two games. After scoring a run in the top of the first inning of the first game, the Bisons didn’t score for the next 13 innings. The Bisons lost Game 1, 2-1, and lost Game 2, 5-0.

Buczkowski said that from the Bisons’ perspective, switching dates to accommodate Rochester was no problem at all and just part of the easy give-and-take the two clubs have had for many years. Buczkowski said that Rochester has always worked with them when they’ve had specific requests, such as wanting to always be home July 3 for the Bisons annual Independence Day game that featured post game fireworks and performance from the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and ending on the road in Rochester every year so that Cola-Cola Field in Buffalo could be free for the National Chicken Wing festival.

Mason said that he understands that some fans may feel like the hometown Red Wings are playing second fiddle to the Yankees, but he hopes that fans see it as a chance to view one of the games all-time greats.

Buckowski agreed – ”I looked at it from this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Rochester to see one of the all-time great pitchers, pitch in their city.”

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