Fifteen of Cedric Hunter's relatives made the eight-hour trek from Georgia to St. Louis for his major-league debut last month.

Hunter rewarded their efforts by scoring the first run of his big-league career. He scored from second on a single in the 11th of the San Diego Padres' 5-3 victory over the Cardinals.

Hunter has since returned to Triple-A, joining the Tucson Padres more than a week ago, but he still relishes his family being able to witness his welcome to the majors. Monday against Salt Lake, he was 1 for 6, and the Padres lost 7-5 in 12 innings at Kino Stadium.

"They were pretty excited when I came into the game," said Hunter, a 23-year-old outfielder. "It was pretty quiet for us, and all of a sudden, 15 people start screaming. It was pretty funny."

He earned his big-league debut courtesy of a strong spring training. He hit .357 in 18 games at Padres major-league camp and landed a spot on the opening-day roster in place of utilityman Eric Patterson, who went on the disabled list for a hamstring strain. With his good spring and 2010 season, Hunter made an impression, putting behind his struggles in 2009, when he hit .261 in Double-A.

"He impressed the big club in the spring. That's really nice," manager Terry Kennedy said. "I don't think he was ever off the radar. They got (Cameron) Maybin - we've got some very fine center fielders in the organization, (Rico) Noel, (Blake) Tekotte. (Hunter) separated himself a little bit."

Hunter's stay in the majors was brief - he went 1 for 4 with a walk in six games - as Patterson returned from the DL April 10.

"Definitely want to get back up there as soon as possible," Hunter said. "Everybody here wants to get there. That's what we're fighting for."

Hunter got his first major-league hit against the Giants in his third game, a single on a fastball, middle in, off Guillermo Mota as a pinch hitter in the sixth. Hunter said he's waiting to receive the baseball.

"You always watch guys on TV get their first hit out of the way," Hunter said. "Everybody is always screaming for them. They get the ball and throw it in the dugout. You always want to be that guy.

" It was a great moment."

Naturally, Hunter was hazed - he said he had to sing on the team bus and carry the team's water and beer.

"It was a great time, great group of guys. They made me feel really comfortable," he said. "It's motivation to get back up there with those guys and hopefully have a good career."

Monday, Hunter made a leaping catch against the center field wall of in the fifth, garnering cheers from the crowd.

"I love the way he plays center field," Kennedy said. "He gets tremendous jumps."

Inside pitch

• Angels infielder Erick Aybar (oblique) started a rehab stint Monday with Salt Lake.

• Tucson starting pitcher Josh Geer went on the DL. Jon Leicester came off the DL and will start today.

• Second baseman Logan Forsythe (shoulder tendinitis) was out of the starting lineup for the third consecutive game but had a pinch-hit single in the eighth. He is expected to start today.


• Who: Fresno at Tucson Padres

• Where: Kino Stadium

• When: 7 p.m.