MESA, Ariz. — Salt Lake Stingers manager Mike Brumley has a pretty good idea who is going to be in his starting lineup to open the 2003 season. What he doesn't know is who is going to play where on a given day. Several familiar faces will play the infield with all players capable of playing more than one position. Trent Durrington, Keith Johnson and Adam Riggs all have the ability to play any of the four spots on the infield.
Durrington spent most of 2002 at Double-A Arkansas, hitting .245, but he did play 19 games for Salt Lake, batting just .206. Besides the infield, the Australian native can also catch. Johnson begins his second season with the Stingers as the starting third baseman, but he, too, can fill in anywhere on the infield.
Johnson hit .281 last year while providing guidance to some of the younger players on the team. Riggs split his 2002 season between Saltillo of the Mexican League, where he hit .331, and Memphis, where he batted .230. Riggs spent four seasons in the Pacific Coast League with the Albuquerque Dukes from 1997 to 2000. Riggs will likely start the season at second base, unless Chone Figgins is sent back to Triple-A by Anaheim.
Alfredo Amezaga will likely start the season with the Stingers at shortstop. The slick-fielding Amezaga hit .251 for Salt Lake in 2002 and batted .538 in 12 games for the Angels.
Time at first base will be shared by outfielders Robb Quinlan and Jeff Guiel.
Quinlan, the PCL's most valuable player and rookie of the year in 2002, struggled this spring with Anaheim, hitting just .161. Quinlan had a breakthrough season last year, hitting .333 with 20 homers and a league-leading 112 runs batted in for Salt Lake. Guiel spent most of the season with the Stingers, batting .253 with 12 homers and 45 RBI. Riggs, Johnson and Durrington will also spend some time at first base.
In the outfield, former BYU star Gary Johnson is back after an injury-plagued 2002. He had already had two stints on the disabled list with rib muscle injuries when his season came to an end on July 15th when he was struck by a pitch in Omaha and suffered a broken arm. Johnson, who hit .266 in limited duty with the Stingers, says he feels no pain in his surgically repaired right arm but that he still struggles with his timing at the plate.
Barry Wesson's 2002 season with New Orleans had ended on Labor Day, and he was driving home to Mississippi when he received a call letting him know that the Angels had picked him up and that he was assigned to Salt Lake to help them in their playoff run. Wesson, who hit .293 with the Zephyrs, had trouble trying to restart his season but is back with the Stingers to start 2003.
The other spot has yet to be determined by Anaheim. Figgins, Jeff DaVanon and Julio Ramirez are vying for two openings on the Angels. One will be sent down to Triple-A. Figgins hit .305 with the Stingers last year and was used, primarily, as a pinch runner by Anaheim last September and in the postseason. DaVanon has put up solid numbers at Triple-A, .330 last year, but he has had difficulty staying healthy. Ramirez hit .273 with the Stingers last year and .281 with the Angels.
BEE LINES: Former Stinger Clay Bellinger homered Thursday to lead Fresno to a 15-4 rout of the Stingers. He is contemplating an offer from the Giants to be their major league bullpen coach . . . Pitcher Elvin Nina, who spent the last two seasons with the Stingers, was released by Anaheim last week . . . Two pitchers with Triple-A experience will likely stay at extended spring training in their efforts to come back from arm injuries. Marc Kroon, who hasn't pitched since 2000 with Tacoma and Bo Donaldson, who was 5-4 with the Yankees' Triple-A Columbus Clippers, will stay in Mesa to build up their arm strengths.
Steve Klauke is the radio voice of the Salt Lake Stingers. Games can be heard on ESPN Radio 1230AM this season.