I think we’re going to have a group of guys with a lot of experience and we’re going to have a group of guys that can pitch at a very high level. —Bees manager Keith Johnson
The Salt Lake Bees will open the 2018 season on Thursday night when they take on Albuquerque on opening day at Smith’s Ballpark, and they’ll have a mixture of old and new faces on the mound this year.
“We’ve got some new faces, some old faces, some faces that we sent up that did really well that are back here, that are pushing that floor and that ceiling, whichever way you want to look at it, to get back up to the big leagues. (Nick) Tropeano, (Parker) Bridwell, those guys. Then we have some young guys like (Jaime) Barria that we have in our starting rotation that are going to make us really, really good,” Bees manager Keith Johnson said.
The Bees’ pitching staff will be headlined by Jaime Barria, who ranks seventh on the Los Angeles Angels’ Top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com. Last year, Barria jumped from Advanced-A to Triple-A in just one season. Barria pitched 14 innings for the Bees, going 2-0 with a 2.45 earned run average.
“Last year, it being his first year in Triple-A, he was a little bit on an innings limit. He was going through some games really, really well, and then we had to take him out. I’m sure a lot of people were scratching their head, but this year, the training wheels will be off a little bit. I’m looking for a lot of good things from him. He has a nice four-pitch mix, can throw all of his pitches for strikes in any count, good, clean delivery — just a young guy that goes out there and pounds the zone and gets good hitters out,” Johnson said.
Barria will join a starting rotation — at least for the start of the season — of Nick Tropeano, Osmer Morales and John Lamb. In the bullpen will be Matt Ball, Vicente Campos, Taylor Cole, Dayan Diaz, Alex Klonowski, Ian Krol, Eduardo Paredes, Felix Pena, Branden Pinder, Nate Smith and Akeel Morris, who the Angels traded for on Tuesday.
Parker Bridwell was origianlly in the starting rotation, but was called up to the Angels on Tuesday due to Matt Shoemaker's injury. Los Angeles also designated Troy Scribner for assigment on Tuesday.
“I think we’re going to have a group of guys with a lot of experience and we’re going to have a group of guys that can pitch at a very high level. It’s going to be fun to watch, especially our starting rotation. We have five starters that can all very well be in the big leagues at some point this year, so it’s going to be fun,” Johnson said.
Salt Lake’s opening day starter on Thursday will be John Lamb, who had back surgery in the 2016 offseason, then was hit with a 50-game drug suspension in 2017, which pushed back his first 2017 start to June 26. Lamb finished the 2017 season with a 5.37 ERA, but he says he is feeling as healthy as ever to start the 2018 campaign.
“I feel great, nothing holding me back. No lingering symptoms from last year, so just excited to get going,” Lamb said.
The 27-year-old southpaw says that he is doing a better job controlling the baseball and attacking hitters.
“Obviously, last year he was coming off a year where he was injured, so there were some ups and downs last year. This spring, he looked like a really, really polished pitcher, so I think we’re going to get a better John Lamb this year than we got last year. What he gave us last year was pretty good,” Johnson said.