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Published: Wednesday, 5/28/2008

Bisons could be headed to Columbus

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Before arriving in Toledo, the Buffalo Bisons played their only four-game series in Columbus this season.

To hear Bisons manager Torey Lovullo tell it, it was hard to discern which club was the home team.

"It's almost like a home game when we're there," Lovullo said. "Our players are definitely recognized by first name. There's definitely a connection."

The connection exists because the Bisons are the Cleveland Indians' Triple-A affiliate, and there are obviously Indians fans in Columbus.

Beginning next season, those Tribe fans in central Ohio might be able to watch Cleveland's top farm club play 72 home games in person.

The Indians' player development contract with Buffalo expires this year, and there is strong speculation Cleveland will enter into an agreement with Columbus, which is building a stadium scheduled to open in 2009.

International League rules prevent clubs from entering into deals with new minor league affiliates until current contracts expire, but the rumor about a future agreement between the Indians and Columbus remains strong - to the point where those asked don't even bother denying it.

"We read the papers like everyone else," said Chris Sprague, assistant to IL president Randy Mobley.

"It's not like it's in writing, but it kind of seems like that's what's going to happen," Bisons center fielder Brad Snyder said. "At least that's the rumor we keep hearing."

The Columbus Clippers' current contract with the Washington Nationals is also set to expire this season.

According to league rules, all minor and major league clubs who are reaching the end of player development contracts and wish to seek contracts with new parties must make notice of their intentions between the end of the minor league regular season and Sept. 11. New agreements can be reached between Sept. 16 through Sept. 30.

All player development contracts must be two or four years in length.

"We're employed by the Cleveland Indians, and we'll go

wherever they tell us to play," Lovullo said. "All of these guys want to play in one place, and Buffalo or Columbus isn't it."

For the record, the Tigers and Mud Hens extended their contract to run through 2010. Buffalo has been linked to the Indians since 1995.

BALLS AND STRIKES: Hens right fielder Brent Clevlen went 1-for-3 with two walks in last night's 6-2 loss to Buffalo, and he has now reached base in 33 games consecutive games - the IL's longest such streak this season. Tigers reliever Denny Bautista, rehabbing his sore right shoulder with the Hens, walked two and struck out three in 11/3 innings last night. He left the game with one out in the eighth and the bases loaded, but Anastacio Martinez pitched out of that jam. Jeff Larish is the third member of the Tigers' 2005 draft class to be promoted to Detroit this year. Matt Joyce and Clete Thomas are the others.

TONIGHT: Toledo right-hander Virgil Vasquez (3-4, 5.88 ERA) is scheduled to pitch against Bisons RHP Matt Ginter (2-4, 5.17) at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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