Class AAA clubhouses are the grumpiest of all the minor league clubhouses. Most of the players have had a taste of the big leagues and aren’t thrilled about being back in the bushes; others have reached the age where it has become apparent they aren’t ever going to get that taste. Nobody seems to be very happy in Class AAA.
But opening day is still opening day, even in the International League, even in Syracuse. And with red-white-and-blue bunting on the railings, and a lush, green field spread out before you, and a 19-year-old phenom set to make his Class AAA debut, at the very least you could fool yourself into thinking this is a special occasion.
Bryce Harper is playing center field and batting fifth for the Chiefs today against the visiting Rochester Red Wings at Alliance Bank Stadium, with a 2:20 p.m. scheduled first pitch. (The Chiefs’ complete lineup: Corey Brown, LF; Seth Bynum, SS; Xavier Paul, RF; Tyler Moore, 1B; Harper, CF; Jason Michaels; DH; Mark Teahan, 3B; Jhonatan Solano, C; Jarrett Hoffpauir, 2B. Pitching for the Chiefs will be Mitch Atkins.)
Speaking of grumpy, John Lannan is here — on the heels of surprise demotion — having reported to Syracuse yesterday. This morning at around 10:30, he threw a bullpen (in 41 degree weather) for Syracuse pitching coach Greg Booker.
Some two hours later, Lannan frowned when I asked how he was doing. He was cordial as we made some small talk, but he said he wasn’t interested in talking about the Nationals’ decision to send him down, beyond what he already said in his statement. He said he made the decision to stop talking about it in order to concentrate on his pitching, and not on his treatment by the Nationals.
This isn’t Wrigley Field, and this isn’t the big leagues, but in about an hour, they’re calling to call John Lannan’s name during pregame introductions, and he’s going to jog out to his spot and doff his cap. He may not be happy to be here, but on opening day you still have to pretend.
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