Salt Lake Bees open season with big talent

Published: Wednesday, April 4 2012 11:26 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — When the Salt Lake Bees open the season tonight at Tacoma, they may have a couple of Triple-A short-timers in the line-up.

Starting pitcher Garrett Richards and outfielder Mike Trout are among the brightest stars in the Los Angeles Angels' organization.

Even so, neither of the 2009 first-round draft picks are looking past the opportunity to refine their skills with the Bees.

"I'm just excited to start a new season," said Richards, a right-hander who went 12-2 at Double-A Arkansas last season before making seven appearances with the Angels. "I haven't been here before so we'll see what the PCL has to offer and hopefully I'll end up in Anaheim at some point this year."

It could be as early as Sunday, April 15, at Yankee Stadium. That's when the Angels will need a fifth-start in their rotation. According to the Orange County Register, it'll either be Richards or Jerome Williams. The right-handers are both scheduled to start openers in the minors on Thursday. Williams is throwing for Single-A Inland Empire.

"I'm not really worried about that right now," Richards said of the situation. "Right now my main focus is just coming out here and helping (the Bees) win games."

Richards began his pro career with Orem in 2009 and is 27-6 in the minors. Last season, he became the first Angels pitcher since Ervin Santana in 2005 to get called up to the majors from Double-A ball.

The 23-year-old from Edmond, Okla., who is 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, prides himself on consistency.

"I treat every game the same. Pitching is pitching," Richards said. "I don't let the outside factors affect how I play. So I'm just going to go out and do what I do."

Trout is also making his Triple-A debut. Like Richards, he's doing so with major league experience. Baseball America's 2011 Minor League Player of the Year hit .326 with 33 steals, 18 doubles, 13 triples and 11 homers with Arkansas. The 20-year-old from New Jersey saw action in 40 games with the Angels, driving in 16 runs and hitting five homers. An illness, however, has hampered Trout in spring training and led to a 15-pound weight loss. He's with Salt Lake to regain his strength and restore his 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame.

"Everything's good," Trout said. "I'm getting my weight back and stuff."

Trout is about 10 pounds away from where he wants to be.

"I just want to come out here and have some fun," said Trout, who is determined not to let all the hype get to him. "You've always got to stay humble. That's the big thing. That's what my parents taught me. You can't be cocky. Let your actions on the field prove what you're about. That's the big thing."

Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson acknowledged that Trout is a top talent in all aspects of the game.

"He's gotten through our organization very quickly and for good reason," Johnson said.

BEE LINES: RHP Matt Fox is the scheduled starter for Tacoma. The Rainiers are the top affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. ... Salt Lake opens the season with four-game series at Tacoma and Reno. The Bees' home opener is April 13 against Tucson. ... This is the start of the franchise's 19th season in Utah since relocating from Portland, Ore. ... Radio voice Steve Klauke enters the season with 2,625 broadcasts for the organization.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

PCL season opener

Salt Lake Bees (0-0)at Tacoma Rainiers (0-0)

Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Wash.

Thursday, April 5th, 8:05 p.m.

Radio: 1230 AM

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