For Friars' Rivera, opener is extra special

For Friars' Rivera, opener is extra special

SAN DIEGO -- There might not have been a happier player in the Padres' clubhouse Sunday than catcher Rene Rivera, who was beaming as he walked around the room, twirling a bat in his hands.

Ten years after making his Major League debut, Rivera made his first Opening Day roster and, better yet, got the start behind the plate for San Diego, catching Andrew Cashner.

"This is a special moment for me and my family," Rivera said. "What I've been through in my career just to get here, making my first Opening Day roster and starting … that makes it so special. Hopefully, we'll be able to do something special in the game."

The 30-year-old Rivera began his professional career in 2001, when he was drafted by the Mariners. He played in three games for Seattle in 2004, and then appeared in a handful of games with the Mariners in 2005 and '06. He didn't appear in the Major Leagues again until the 2011 season with the Twins.

"It's been a long and tough road," Rivera said.

In fact, Rivera nearly walked away from baseball in 2010, when the season started and he wasn't with an affiliated team. He joined the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League, where he played for former big leaguer Von Hayes.

"I almost quit," Rivera said. "I told the manager, Von Hayes, that I would be there for a month. And if nothing happened after a month, I was done. Three weeks later, I was back with a team, the Yankees."

The Padres are carrying three catchers to begin the season, because they like Rivera and the way he handles the pitching staff. And since he's out of Minor League options, he likely would have been picked up by another team if the club placed him on waivers.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.