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Salt Lake Bees off to best start since 2008, open season with third straight win

Bees' Trent Oeltjen smiles after scoring as the Salt Lake Bees play the Tucson Padres in the season opener Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City.
Bees' Trent Oeltjen smiles after scoring as the Salt Lake Bees play the Tucson Padres in the season opener Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time since 2008, the Salt Lake Bees have opened the season with three straight wins.

Saturday’s 5-3 victory over Tucson at Spring Mobile Ballpark put the Bees in pretty good company. The 2008 team went on to win eight straight and 21 of its first 22 outings.

This year’s squad, though, has a more veteran look to it.

Salt Lake second baseman Luis Rodriguez, who turns 33 in June, hit two doubles and scored twice — including the game-winning run — in the latest triumph.

“It’s definitely a veteran presence in the line-up,” acknowledged Bees manager Keith Johnson.

Rodriguez, a veteran of 407 major league games over a span of six seasons with the Twins, Padres and Mariners, drew praise from Johnson for capitalizing on opportunities that came his way.

Tucson built a 3-0 lead before Salt Lake evened things up with a three-run outburst in the bottom of the third. Rodriguez led the comeback with a two-run double. He then scored on a single by designated hitter Luke Carlin to even things up.

The Padres had jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in the second when Jason Hagerty drew a bases-loaded walk. An inning later, they added two more scores — off an RBI groundout by Sawyer Carroll and a throwing error by the Bees.

“We stayed focused the entire time,” said Salt Lake left fielder Roberto Lopez, who had the game-winning RBI single in the eighth inning. “It’s a lot of fun playing with these guys.”

Lopez said that there’s a lot of experience with the Bees right now — 19 players have logged time in the big leagues — and he’s trying to learn from them, have fun and help contribute to victories.

The 27-year-old certainly did his part in the third game of the season-opening series. His pivotal single was followed by a Tucson error that accounted for the final margin.

“That was a fun feeling for sure,” Lopez said after adding that it’s an honor to play alongside the veterans on the team.

Salt Lake’s roster has a blend of experience and younger players on the rise.

“It’s a fun team,” Johnson said. “It’s just kind of a snapshot, or a glimpse so to speak, of what’s to come over the course of the season.”

Contributions also came from the pitching staff.

Starter A.J. Schugel teamed with relievers Fernando Cabrera, Mitch Stetter, David Carpenter and Dane De La Rosa to shut out Tucson over the final six innings.

“Our pitching right now has been doing a great job for us,” Johnson said. “And our guys have done a good job of just putting the ball in play.”

The combination is paying dividends.

“It’s still early,” Johnson said. “But it’s nice to see these guys grind out some W’s.”

EXTRA HITS: The attendance was 4,699. … Schugel did not factor into the decision in his first Triple-A start. Schugel pitched five complete innings and gave up four hits. He finished with five strikeouts and allowed four walks. … The Padres are relocating to El Paso, Texas, and a brand new stadium next season.


Bees 5, Padres 3

In short: Roberto Lopez drove in the winning run with a single in the eighth inning. Luis Rodriguez finished with two doubles and two runs scored.

Bees manager Keith Johnson's take: “Our guys have been putting themselves in position to do things.”

Record: 3-0

Up next: vs. Tucson, today, 1:05 p.m. Padres RHP Thad Weber vs. Bees RHP Matt Shoemaker.

Next homestand: April 8-11 vs. Reno (Diamondbacks).


Twitter: @DirkFacer