Nick Green has made exactly one Triple-A appearance in his career, and it came in a pressure-packed situation.
The new Salt Lake Bees pitcher was called up from Double-A Arkansas just prior to the Pacific Coast League playoffs last September and then was sent to the hill to start Game 5 of the best-of-5 series on the road against the Sacramento River Cats.
He pitched remarkably well. In fact, had it not been for one bad pitch, he would have sent the Bees to the PCL title series. Green's only real mistake in seven innings of work was when he gave up a two-out, 3-run homer in a 4-2 loss that ended Salt Lake's season.
"It was my first Triple-A start, but I just wanted to treat it like it was just another baseball game," said Green after that playoff loss. "There was a lot on the line, but I like that. I like when the pressure is on."
There will be a lot less pressure today, but Green will get his second start in a Bees uniform when Salt Lake faces the Las Vegas 51s in the season-opener on the road.
Just as Green was honored that Bees' management had enough confidence to send him to the mound in a do-or-die playoff game last September, the 23-year-old right-hander is excited to get the start in the opener for new manager Bobby Mitchell. While it may be just one of 144 regular-season games, the opener still has extra meaning for players.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't an honor," Green said about starting the opener. "We have a great pitching staff, and to be considered (to pitch) in Game 1 is a great experience and I'm looking forward to it. I'm ready to get going."
Green is one of two top young pitching prospects in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's farm system currently with the Bees. Nick Adenhart, who is scheduled to pitch Game 2 in Las Vegas on Friday, is a 21-year-old who is the Angels' No. 1 pitching prospect this season according to Baseball America. Like Green, Adenhart spent all last regular season in Double-A Arkansas.
The three other pitchers in the Bees' starting rotation include Shane Loux, who missed last year recovering from an injury, Salt Lake veteran Kasey Olenberger and Giancarlo Alvarado. Henry Bonilla, who started 29 games and had a team-high 12 wins for the Bees in 2007, is currently scheduled to work out of the bullpen. Other Bees veteran relief pitchers include Matt Wilhite, Alex Serrano and Aaron Pullin.
Offensively, the Bees have three of their top hitters back from a year ago in outfielder Terry Evans (.316 average, 75 RBIs), shortstop Brandon Wood (23 homers, 77 RBIs) and third baseman Matt Brown (.276 average, 19 homers, 60 RBIs).
"This is a very talented team. We're excited about what this team can do this year," said Evans, who was a Triple-A All-Star last season. "I feel like we should win a lot of ballgames and, 1 through 9, I would put our lineup up against anybody in the league."Following their four-game set in Las Vegas, the Bees will travel for a series in Tucson. The home-opener at Franklin Covey Field will be April 11 against the Portland Beavers.
Bees season opener
Salt Lake Bees at Las Vegas 51s
Tonight, 8 p.m.