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.
Not in opener lineup, but Smith contributes right away
SAN DIEGO -- Outfielder Seth Smith wasn't in the Padres' starting lineup Sunday, as the Dodgers went with a left-handed pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu, but Smith figures to get plenty of at-bats this season.
Smith's first, in fact, came in the eighth inning, when he appeared as a pinch-hitter and tied the game at 1 with a deep homer to right field off Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson. The blast ignited a three-run rally in the Padres' 3-1 Opening Night win.
"It's about as much as you can hope for," Smith said of his first at-bat with San Diego.
The Padres traded reliever Luke Gregerson to the A's in November for Smith, addressing one of their biggest offseason needs -- finding a left-handed bat to improve their woeful offensive marks against righties from a year ago.
A year ago, San Diego ranked 25th in baseball with a .241 average against right-handed pitching, and the Padres were 29th in OPS (.668) against righties.
Enter Smith, who was coming off a Spring Training in which he hit .325, but with a .343 average in 35 at-bats facing right-handed pitchers, with three doubles and one home run.
"Right now, I'm good with where I am," Smith said prior to Sunday's game. "I'm always looking to get better and improve. It's always a work in progress. You're never content."
Smith began slowly this spring, but he found his swing -- and, subsequently, more success -- the longer spring rolled on.
"It's having good, productive at-bats without having to think about anything," Smith said. "You're working with your mechanics during the spring and getting your swing where you want it to be. I think that it all goes hand in hand. When you can get in there and clear your head, you can be productive. That's when you know you have a chance."
There's a good chance that Smith will start on Tuesday when the series resumes, as the Dodgers have righty Zack Greinke taking the mound. San Diego will face another right-hander on Wednesday in the series finale in Dan Haren. Smith will likely see time in right field.
Opener begins season of honoring late Coleman
SAN DIEGO -- There's not a day that goes by during which Padres broadcaster Ted Leitner doesn't miss his old partner, Jerry Coleman, who passed away in January at the age of 89.
The home opener on Sunday against the Dodgers was one of those days for Leitner, who worked with Coleman on the radio for 33 years.
"He would have said to me today, no matter when I got to the ballpark, 'About time you got here.' He wasn't teasing. He would have already been here forever," Leitner said.
"Today, there's a just a hole in my heart. I miss him desperately."
The Padres plan to honor Coleman in a number of ways during the season. The team will wear a memorial patch with the letters "JC" on it that will be fixed to the left sleeve of both the home and road jerseys.
Fans who attended Sunday's game received a Jerry Coleman Tribute camouflage T-shirt presented by Sycuan.
Coleman's daughter, Chelsea, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday. She was escorted by her mother, Coleman's wife, Maggie. The team also unveiled the Jerry Coleman Broadcast Center, with big lettering affixed to the area above the broadcast booth on the press level.
• Outfielder Carlos Quentin, who officially landed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday when the team set its 25-man roster, will need more than the allotted time on the DL as he recovers from a bone bruise in his left knee, manager Bud Black said. Quentin's DL stint was retroactive to Tuesday, and he would have been eligible to be reinstated on April 8.
"The reality is he has some banged-up knees," Black said of Quentin, who has had three surgeries on his right knee since 2012. "He'll play when he's ready, and he'll play in some discomfort. But there's a motivation behind 'Q,' in that he wants to play."