How we start the season is never the way that you finish the season. Guys are going to work their way into roles, out of roles or what have you. I’m just looking forward to going out and being competitive. —Keith Johnson, Salt Lake Bees manager
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Bees manager Keith Johnson acknowledged there’s always something special about opening night.
The start of a new season, he said, is always highly anticipated.
On Thursday, the wait is over for Johnson and the Bees. They’ll open the 20th consecutive season of Pacific Coast League baseball in Utah by taking on the Tucson Padres in the first of a four-game series at Spring Mobile Ballpark. Game time is 6:35 p.m.
“How we start the season is never the way that you finish the season. Guys are going to work their way into roles, out of roles or what have you,” said Johnson, who is embarking on his third season at the helm of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s top minor league affiliate. “I’m just looking forward to going out and being competitive — seeing how these guys jell as the season goes along and try to pile up some victories.”
Leading the charge for a successful start is 26-year-old pitcher Barry Enright. The right-hander, who was acquired in a trade with Arizona last summer, is Salt Lake’s scheduled starter.
It’s a role the former Pepperdine star isn’t taking for granted.
“Any time you get to be an opening day starter — anywhere — it’s an honor,” Enright said. “To get named that is obviously pretty cool, and I do appreciate it.”
A year ago, Enright was PCL rival Reno’s opening day starter. He picked up a win against Colorado Springs by scattering five hits over 5 2/3 innings on a 35-degree night in Nevada.
Competing every day at the Triple-A level, he said, isn’t difficult.
“Our goal is always to be in the big leagues and to be part of the big league club,” Enright said. “We come down here and obviously want to win — to be able to be a part of that big league club.”
Enright went 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA at Salt Lake last season. He wound up making three relief appearances with the Angels in September.
BEE LINES: Salt Lake is 11-8 in home openers. Team broadcaster Steve Klauke opens his 20th season with 2,769 games called. This is the start of an eight-game homestand, concluding with four games against Reno (April 8-11).