Tucson Padres: Relaxed Rivera gets call to majors

2013-07-07T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Relaxed Rivera gets call to majorsDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Rene Rivera had a nice vacation planned for his family later this month.

The Tucson Padres catcher was selected to the Triple-A All-Star Game in Reno, Nev., and was planning on bringing his entire family with him for a few days of fun and relaxation.

The Rivera family will now need a Plan B, and that's just fine with the 29-year-old Puerto Rico native.

Rivera was promoted to the major leagues before Tucson's 5-2 loss to Las Vegas on Saturday night at Kino Stadium. When he joins San Diego in the dugout today in Washington. D.C., for a game against the Nationals, it will be his first taste of the big leagues since 2011.

He flew to Washington Saturday night in time to be with the team for today's game.

"This is one of the best moments in my career," Rivera said. "I think this time I earned it."

Isn't that the truth?

Rivera, who is going up because former Tucson catcher Yasmani Grandal suffered a leg injury Saturday in San Diego's 5-4 loss, is having the best season of his professional career. In 74 games with Tucson, Rivera was hitting .343 with 18 doubles, five home runs and 38 RBIs all while playing solid defense behind the plate.

Rivera was first promoted to the big leagues in 2004 at age 20 and then again in 2005 and 2006. His most recent promotion came in 2011 as a member of the Minnesota Twins when All-Star catcher Joe Mauer went down with an injury.

The Padres backstop will be the first to tell you he didn't necessarily earn those promotions. They were more out of need, and he was the only option.

This promotion, Rivera feels strongly he earned because of his impressive play and not just because the big league club needed a warm body.

"I worked hard to make this happen," Rivera said. "Hopefully I'll continue to produce up there."

Just one year ago, a promotion to the major leagues seemed far-fetched for Rivera. He was one of three catchers playing in Triple-A Rochester (N.Y.), the Twins affiliate, and hit .226 in 95 games.

He was constantly putting pressure on himself to produce and thinking about how he might never get another crack in the majors. So he made a deal with himself when he signed with San Diego in the offseason: 2013 was going to be about having fun and nothing else.

"I just wanted to come here and play baseball," Rivera said. "I wasn't thinking, 'If I come here and hit, I'll get to the big leagues.' I just wanted to enjoy it. That was my mentality all year long. I played hard every day and if it happened and I got to the big leagues, great, and if not, I tried my best.

Of course, Rivera's gain is Tucson's loss.

With Rivera now gone, Tucson lost one of its most productive players and a stalwart of manager Pat Murphy's lineup.

"Rene has played beyond his personal best and he did it on defense and with his defense," Murphy said. "He changed the way opponents attacked us."

Chris Robinson, who was acquired by Tucson in a trade last month, will now assume the No. 1 job behind the plate. He's been a Triple-A player since 2009 and has yet to get a taste of the big leagues.

Tucson will also likely get a catcher from Double-A San Antonio to back up Robinson. That could be Eddy Rodriguez, who had brief stints with Tucson in 2011 and last season.

But that will all be sorted out later.

Saturday was all about Rivera.

"I have to give thanks to San Diego for giving me the opportunity to play every day," Rivera said. "On the other teams, I had the backup job and didn't have the chance to play every day. I had trouble getting ready to play on a daily basis. San Diego gave me the chance to play every day. I worked hard, did my thing and handled my business.

"I was playing every day and got the opportunity to show that I can still play."

Today

• What: Las Vegas at Padres

• Where: Kino Stadium

• When: 7:05 p.m.

• Radio: 1290-AM

¡Tus Padres!

Las Vegas 5, Tucson 2

• Highlight: Former Padres farmhand Mike Baxter went 3 for 4 with a two-run home run to lead the 51s (46-41) to a win. It was just the second loss in the last seven games for the Padres. Manager Pat Murphy's team is 49-41. Ben Francisco, Mike Wilson and Jonathan Galvez all had two hits for Tucson. Francisco and Galvez each had an RBI.

• Big number: 7.02: Tucson starter Anthony Bass gave up five runs over seven innings, which actually dropped his ERA from 7.18 to 7.02.

• Tonight's starters: Tucson's Brandon Kloess (2-3, 4.38 ERA) vs. Chris Schwinden (3-8, 6.05 ERA)

Daniel Berk

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Latest Hansen video

More videos

Hansen's best HS football coaches in Tucson history

The Star is listing the 25 best high school football coaches in Tucson history, and Greg is ready to name names.


Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...