Story by BRETT HEIN • Standard-Examiner Staff
OGDEN — An exciting part of taking interest in a rookie-advanced team like the Ogden Raptors is it’s often the first stop for burgeoning professional baseball players drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Those draft picks will eventually arrive in Ogden, but not quite yet. They’re still finalizing contracts and some will attend a minicamp at the Dodgers’ spring training facility in Arizona before being assigned to a team, Raptors manager Mark Kertenian said.
For 2017’s opening day Monday in Orem, the Raptors will feature a shortened roster with some familiar faces — including one fan favorite playing a different position.
Former Raptors first baseman and outfielder Matt Jones, who hit 11 home runs and 18 doubles as an All-Star in 2015, returns to Ogden as a 6-foot-7 pitcher.
Jones began his college career at Nebraska as a pitcher before returning to hitting at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. Kertenian said the Dodgers switched him back to pitching near the end of spring training this year.
“He’ll need time to season himself, it doesn’t happen immediately, but what he’s done immediately is nice,” Kertenian said about the transition.
Other pitchers who will be familiar to Raptors fans are Conor Costello, Adalberto Pena and Jairo Pacheco.
The top hitter set to return to Ogden is catcher Luis Paz. He hit .269 for the Raptors last season. Catcher Garrett Hope and infielders Brock Carpenter, Samuel Ortiz, Moises Perez and Nick Yarnall are also set for the opening-day roster.
Outfielder Michael Medina, who hit nine home runs and 14 doubles as a Raptor in 2015, is also set to return for opening day. Kertenian said Medina had “an awesome spring training.”