Bees loaded with experience as season takes off

Published: Wednesday, April 3 2013 11:20 a.m. MDT

Luis Jimenez smiles during media day for the Salt Lake Bees baseball team Tuesday, April 2, 2013, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a whole lot of experience on the Salt Lake Bees’ opening day roster. They’re starting the season with 18 players who have seen action in the majors.

Salt Lake outfielder Kole Calhoun, who appeared in 21 games for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last season, considers it something pretty special.

“That’s playing on a team with guys that all know what it takes to get up there,” Calhoun said. “That’s valuable for us.”

Calhoun added that if everybody keeps working hard to get back to the big leagues it will only make the team in Salt Lake better.

Bees manager Keith Johnson, who is back for his third season at the helm, agrees.

“That grouping is real close. Every single one of those guys are in position to help our major league club at some point,” he said. “So it allows a little bit more of the competitiveness of the individual to help the competitiveness of the team.”

Salt Lake opens its 13th consecutive season as the top affiliate of the Angels on Thursday night against Tucson at Spring Mobile Ballpark.

The Bees open the campaign with nine players on the parent club’s 40-man roster — pitchers Ryan Brasier, David Carpenter, Barry Enright and Michael Kohn; catcher John Hester; infielders Tommy Field and Luis Jimenez; plus outfielders Calhoun and Scott Cousins. Pitcher Brandon Sisk, who is currently on the disabled list, is also on the 40-man roster.

The overall experience of this year’s squad, coupled with others working their way up the system, has Johnson acknowledging that the Bees have a lot of depth and guys who can do a lot of different things. He noted that the pitching staff is deep with a strong bullpen. As for the batters, Johnson isn’t expecting a lot of home runs. However, he said they’ll make up for it by running the bases well — predicting plenty of triples and runs scored.

“This year is going to be a lot different than the year that we had last year,” Johnson said. “We’re ready to get out and get after it.”

The Bees went 73-71 in 2012. They opened the season with outfielder Mike Trout, who went on to become the American League Rookie of the Year and an all-star after getting called up by the Angels on April 28.

Salt Lake’s opening day roster this time around has a more veteran look with seven players age 30 or older. There’s eight counting pitcher Tony Pena, who is on the disabled list.

The pitching staff has the most diversity in that regard, ranging from 23-year-old right-hander A.J. Schugel to 32-year-old lefty Mitch Stetter.

“We’re going to have a very talented pitching staff, all the way from the starters to the relievers. We have a lot of guys with big league experience,” said Enright, who is the scheduled starter in the season opener. “With the mixture of older to younger guys, it’s kind of how teams win and so I think they’ve done a great job of placing these type of guys in Salt Lake.”

Enright added that the same goes for the big league club as well.

“We’re excited to win at every level,” he said.

Bees general manager Marc Amicone noted that since affiliating with the Angels, Salt Lake teams have had nine winning seasons and won four division titles. He also pointed out that 12 MLB all-stars have played for the Bees at one point in their careers.

The run of success has Amicone eager for what lies ahead. Spring Mobile Ballpark celebrates its 20th anniversary this season and the Bees have 11 fireworks nights scheduled.

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