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Beavers ready, but limping into home opener

For Triple-A players, season's start is no time to get attached

Hip, hip, hurray, it's opening day in Triple-A.

The Portland Beavers open their second home season at 7 tonight against Memphis. Go to PGE Park, get to know the players, but don't get too attached.

It is Triple-A and by the end of the season, the players could be up in San Diego, down in Class AA Mobile or released. Take center fielder Kory DeHaan, for example.

DeHaan spent all of 2000 with San Diego. Last year, he started with the Beavers, but after an extended slump the Padres sent him to Mobile, where he finished the season.

DeHaan and eight others who suited up for the Beavers last year arrive at PGE Park tonight refreshed and ready to go. Ready to go, despite their 1-6 start through Wednesday in road trips at Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs.

'It'll feel like it's the first game of the season,' says DeHaan, who had a solid winter league and spring and hit .375 in the first seven games. 'Hopefully, we can put on a show.'

The Memphis series continues through Monday. Then the Beavers play Colorado Springs in a four-game home series.

Since last year, the Beavers' parent company, Portland Family Entertainment, has undergone a management change. PFE has brought in the Goldklang Group to run the club. The players were critical of PFE's past management team, saying the leadership wasn't accommodating and lacked a baseball background.

In 2001, the Beavers spent the first 26 days on the road as workers finished PGE Park renovations. They felt unwanted and not important.

'I remember the first month. It was horrible,' DeHaan says. 'I thought it was a great baseball city, though. Just from the opening-day crowd, about 20,000, it looked like it'd be awesome.

'We averaged around 5,000. It'd be nice to average a little higher than that. It was unfortunate; I don't think they did a lot of publicity.'

Manager Rick Sweet, who lives in Vancouver, Wash., says he is 'comfortable with how things will go off' this season.

'The fans were comfortable last year,' he notes. 'The problems weren't on the outside, they were on the inside.'

The Beavers' office has moved to PGE Park, which will help communication, Sweet says.

Right now, however, DeHaan and others are concentrating on finding a place to live.

'We'll spend all weekend in a hotel, going to check out some apartments,' he says. 'Some guys want to stay in Oswego. I want to stay downtown. My wife (Rachel) will come at the end of May.'

But they won't get too comfortable. DeHaan found out why last year, putting up with the stress of being one of the first Beavers back in PGE Park and then being sent to Mobile.

'I'm so much looking forward to this year,' he says. 'Hopefully, it'll be better than last year. Can't be much worse.'

NOTES: The Beavers had been outscored 41-17 through seven games. É DeHaan, infielder Cesar Crespo and pitcher Junior Herndon return as Beavers who played in the first series last year. Crespo and Herndon spent time with the Padres last year. É The experienced Beavers are the ones hitting the best: Crespo .316, DeHaan .375, Kevin Eberwein .208 ('he has had better at-bats than his numbers show,' Sweet says), Julius Matos .304 and Jake Thrower .500. 'It's more the younger guys (struggling), getting the feeling of what Triple-A is like,' DeHaan says. 'You can become comfortable in spring training.' And vet Pete Incaviglia had only two hits in 20 at-bats. É Herndon will start tonight, followed by Matt DeWitt, Jason Middlebrook and Kevin Pickford. John Snyder will open the Colorado Springs series.

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