Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Solanos' night to remember

Associated Press photo
The supremely proud Solano family: Myriam, Donovan, Jhonatan and Luis.
MIAMI -- Imagine the thoughts racing through Jhonatan Solano's mind as he stepped to the plate last night.

Twenty-four hours prior, he learned he was being called up by the Nationals, who were playing in Miami, where his brother Donovan happened to have been called up by the Marlins nine days earlier. Now the 26-year-old catcher was being summoned by manager Davey Johnson to pinch-hit with two outs in the top of the ninth against All-Star closer Heath Bell. With his brother watching from the other dugout. And with his parents (who flew in from Colombia earlier in the day to attend their first major-league game) watching from the stands.

Good luck dealing with all that, kid.

"Yeah, you know, it's a little pressure," Solano would say later. "There's a lot of people in the stadium, all my family here, all together. But I breathed like 50 times. Hopefully I get a hit."

He did get a hit. A double down the right-field line. On an 0-2 count. To keep the game alive for the Nationals.

"I pray on that," he said. "I say: 'God, I don't want to be the last out to the game.' He heard my prayer and he give me double. That's good."

It's all good right now for the Solano family, which last night experienced the thrill of a lifetime. Two sons on the same major-league field, each having been summoned to make their debuts in the span of nine days.

"Super-happy," mother Myriam Preciado, wearing a Marlins jersey, said before the game through an interpreter.

"We weren't expecting it," father Luis Solano, wearing a Nationals jersey added.

The path each Solano brother took to reach the big leagues was anything but conventional. Growing up in Colombia, a nation that until last week had produced only 11 major-league ballplayers, opportunities were extremely limited. Luis, though, had been a pitcher and infielder before an injury derailed his career, so he passed along his love for the game to his sons.

Even so, it's difficult for Colombian players to get noticed by scouts. Thus, a teenaged Jhonatan Solano found himself traveling across the border to Venezuela for a tryout, in a van full of passengers lugging produce (including one woman with a tied-up pig).

Solano was seated next to a heap of onions. To this day, teammates and coaches refer to him by the nickname "cebolla" (Spanish for "onion.")

Solano was signed by the Nationals, but his trek to the big leagues was a long one. He spent seven years in the minors, rooming with Ian Desmond at both Class AA and Class AAA in 2009. He was sent back to Class AA in 2010, then returned to Class AAA last season.

Added to the Nationals' 40-man roster over the winter so he couldn't be lost via the Rule 5 draft, Solano was in big-league camp this spring but stood no realistic chance of heading north with the club. And there was little reason to believe he'd be called upon at any point, not with Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores in Washington, veteran Carlos Maldonado at Syracuse and touted prospect Sandy Leon at Harrisburg.

But then those fellow catchers started dropping like flies. Ramos tore his ACL and was done for the season. Leon suffered a bad ankle sprain four innings into his big-league debut. And then Sunday night, Flores tweaked his hamstring, sidelining him for at least a couple of days.

Thus the call finally was placed to Solano to get down to Miami as quickly as possible.

"When you sign, your first goal is to make it to the big leagues," said Solano, who only returned in the last week from his own stint on the DL due to a neck injury. "But when they put me on the 40-man roster last year it was exciting. When they called me [Monday] ... wow, I can't believe that."

Neither could Donovan, his younger brother who spent eight seasons in the minors (most in the Cardinals organization) before getting called up by the Marlins last week. A natural infielder who can play anywhere on the field (aside from, ironically, catcher), Donovan Solano debuted for Miami on May 22 and singled in his first career at-bat.

His parents, however, weren't there to see it in person. Myriam has always had a fear of flying, so she and Luis stayed at home. That was, until they learned their other son had also been promoted to the majors.

"With that news, she didn't want to stay home," Donovan said.

Luis and Myriam arrived Tuesday afternoon. Jhonatan had arrived the night before, flying in from Syracuse, greeted at the Miami airport by none other than his brother and fellow major leaguer.

The two embraced and shed a few tears.

"Hey, bro," Donovan told Jhonatan. "We did it."

47 comments:

NatsFanGino said...

Feel good story. I feel a Lifetime movie coming on..

peric said...

Mark is far better at this than predicting the sudden non-resurgence of Ryan Zimmerman. That shoulder looks like its not going away this season. It likely spells a subpar one for Zim.

Gonat said...

Which lucky catcher gets the start versus Josh Johnson?

Also, if Flores is ok by Friday when Michael Morse is activated, who gets the pink slip-Maldanado or Solano, or if Flores still isn't ready that would mean the Nats either put Flores on the DL retroactive or carry 3 catchers and Nady or Bernadina get the pink slip.

Doc said...

Great story!

Congratualtions and continued success to the Solano family. Two brothers making it to the Bigs from such circumstances.

A tribute to faith in family and human perserverance!

Gonat said...

peric said...
Mark is far better at this than predicting the sudden non-resurgence of Ryan Zimmerman. That shoulder looks like its not going away this season. It likely spells a subpar one for Zim.

May 30, 2012 11:39 AM
___________________________

Why are you busting on Mark? Is he a fortune teller? Did Ryan's shoulder make him swing over the 3 costly grounders in the last 2 games but allow him to shoot the bases clearing line drive double also?

When Morse comes back I guess Lombo can play some 3rd base if needed, but I just see a guy in a slump

JD said...

Gonat,

Peric isn't happy unless he's arguing/fighting with someone. I've concluded that it's best to ignore him.

natsfan1a said...

Great story. Congrats to the bros and their proud parents.

waddu eye no said...

when life gives you onions....

Gonat said...

JD, maybe he needs some onions

Soul Possession, My PFB Hitterish Sofa said...

I can't even imagine how the Solano parents don't bust the buttons off every shirt they own. What a great night for their family.

JD said...

Purke scuffled some today in his debut. 5 runs in 5 innings in 7 hits and 5 walks with only 1 strikeout. I am sure he will get better as he progresses.

MicheleS said...

waddu.. nearly spit my water out laughing so hard.

another reason I love baseball, all the great stories...

MicheleS said...

JD.. beware the wrath of being yelled at with bold and capital letters... and the name calling....

mick said...

Solano story is uplifting, I hope this kid has a great career here.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

JD, thanks for the Purke update. Better than I expected. I thought he would go 2 or 3 innings max. Perfect first inning and got stuck in the 2nd with a single, flair hit and a ground balk single with a walk.

Came back with a strong 3rd and 4th then fell apart in the 5th with the walk and HR.

JD said...

MichelleS,

I am sure I've been called worse by better.

JD said...

Steve,

I hoped to see more K's and less BB's but it is the 1st time out.

MicheleS said...

Gonat.. Mark mentioned today (on his 12:45 radio appearance) the possibility that Morse might see time in Right, with Lombo in Left, and Harper in CF. That ought to be interesting...

baseballswami said...

When Morse first came here he played right all the time. He was just fine there. Look it up!

Gonat said...

TCU left-handed pitcher Matt Purke (No. 96 overall) joined Rendon in signing a major league deal, worth roughly $4 million over four years. Purke and Rendon received major league deals because they are “close to the big leagues” and “extreme talents,” Rizzo said.
___________________________________

That was in August 2011.

JD said...

Gonat,

As with everything else there's potential and then there's reality. Sometimes they converge and other times they diverge.

Gonat said...

MicheleS said...
Gonat.. Mark mentioned today (on his 12:45 radio appearance) the possibility that Morse might see time in Right, with Lombo in Left, and Harper in CF. That ought to be interesting...

May 30, 2012 1:38 PM
_____________________________

I could see that as a possibility but you really weaken your entire outfield doing that. Lombo adds offense but he can do it at 2nd base. He doesn't have corner outfield power.

How's about giving Corey Brown a legitimate shot every day in the OF vs RH pitching and lets see where we are in 10 days. I think Corey will be a considerable upgrade over Ankiel and Morse, Brown and Harper could be the OF until Werth can return.

Lombo can then play 2nd 5 days a week.

Gonat said...

JD said...
Gonat,

As with everything else there's potential and then there's reality. Sometimes they converge and other times they diverge.

May 30, 2012 1:48 PM
_________________________

A long way to go. Dylan Bundy was untouchable in Low A and in his 1st appearance in High A they hit him. Each progression the competition gets better. Purke has much more progression ahead of him.

JD said...

Gonat,

The difference is that Bundy is 18 or 19 and Purke is 22. When you draft college players the good ones should be pretty close to AA level right from the get go. This is not an absolute theory but it's generally correct. Storen started at low A but dominated there and at every other level very quickly thus we knew he was the real deal.

Gonat said...

JD said...
Gonat,

The difference is that Bundy is 18 or 19 and Purke is 22. When you draft college players the good ones should be pretty close to AA level right from the get go. This is not an absolute theory but it's generally correct. Storen started at low A but dominated there and at every other level very quickly thus we knew he was the real deal.

May 30, 2012 1:57 PM
_______________________________

Absolutely, the point I was trying make is this is the 1st step for Purke and he has to progress at every level. Moving levels isn't easy and Bundy is an example of that as the players are much better as you jump from Low A to High A and High A to AA. That's also the big test for position players like Skole.

A DC Wonk said...

The difference is that Bundy is 18 or 19 and Purke is 22. When you draft college players...

Isn't Purke coming back from injury? Or am I misremembering?

MicheleS said...

Swami.. I remember him playing right as well, just worry about 2 rookies playing the OF and Morse just coming back.

Brother Juniper said...

The warm and fuzzies for the Solano family made me recall the saga of Rick Short back in 2005. I hope Jhonatan has a much longer ML career.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Purke was signed coming off injury. I saw him in the fall instructs and he was clearly building arm strength.

He looked back to full strength by early ST but developed a minor setback and was held in extended ST until last week.

I'd expect him to round into full strength in a couple of starts barring another setback

MicheleS said...

Good link to Kilgore article on the top left. Davey is taking over Espinosa now. Let's hope he can work the same magic he did with Ian.

Theophilus T. S. said...

On the previous post someone said, "The Marquis de Rendon. I like it!"

I would appreciate it if we could go for a while without any reminders of Jason Marquis.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

I just read the Kilgore piece and I am smiling. I said this last April about Danny and the big looping swing and lack of contact. Kevin Long fixed Curtis Granderson but the Grandy Man was already a good hitter. I wish Davey luck. Danny has been swinging this way for 15 years.

Also, how do you fix guys like Espi and Ankiel that consistenly swing at balls at their shoulders?

Best place for Danny is AAA when Morse comes back so Lombo can play every day.

jeffwx said...

Espi is young enough...Strange that Davey has to do the hitting coach's job and correct the team flaw of going after outside off-speed pitches and missing fastballs in.

Gonat said...

Ghost Of Steve M. said...
Best place for Danny is AAA when Morse comes back so Lombo can play every day.

May 30, 2012 2:42 PM
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That's harsh and I have to agree. Davey and Rizzo can't reconstruct a players mechanics on the fly plus a lot of Espi's problems is biting on the high cheese.

Espi needs a few weeks away from the pressure to work on his issues. Other thought is just batting rightie full-time.

Gonat said...

jeffwx said...
flaw of going after outside off-speed pitches and missing fastballs in.

May 30, 2012 2:46 PM
__________________________

That's the least of his problems. Davey knows the competition reads this stuff so he said that on purpose and that is minor compared to a righties curveball and the high cheese which tied Espi up for the first 40 games this year.

jeffwx said...

He has show signs of hitting, but agree he's very inconsistent.

mick said...

what would be so bad of having Espi hit right handed period?? If Lombo ends up hitting right handed better than Espi, taht si when you make Lombo number one and Espi a reserve. Remember espi can play both ss and 2b, keeping Desmond, Espi an Lombo fresh throughout a season would make sense.

mick said...

add rendon to the mix, if ever stays healthy and no other team in MLB would have depth like that at ss and 2b

mick said...

where does Purke fit in all this?

NatsJack in Florida said...

Re: Purke.....right now, he doesn't. But 2014 he does.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Oh, what a lovely story, Mark. But whatever happened to the tied-up pig?

Thanks to this, I now have a new favorite National.

A DC Wonk said...

Gonat said...

jeffwx said...
flaw of going after outside off-speed pitches and missing fastballs in.

=========
That's the least of his problems. Davey knows the competition reads this stuff so he said that on purpose


If so, Davey's overthinking this one. Anyone who looks at the tapes can see what his weakness is. I'm sure that the scouting report of all 15 NL opponents already have it.

baseballswami said...

Our outfield situation is kind of screwy - Sharkadina has the great speed but can't hit, Ankiel has the Cannon-Arm, but can't hit, Lombo is great at lead-off, has speed, switch hits, but doesn't have an outfield arm. Morse has been a great hitter, an ok outfielder, but a better first baseman - but we already have a first base man, Harper is still learning, Werth is broken, Brown we don't know yet. Bits and pieces of a whole player. I really don't know why anyone is worried about Morse in right, though, once he is all healed, of course - he can play there just fine. Does anybody else think Zim should be getting regular time off while he tries to get his shoulder back to full strength? He was heating up and the shoulder was getting stronger, but it looks like he is tired now. Some regular time off might make him stronger for the second half. I hate seeing guys that are just back played into the ground right away. I know we need them, but we need them strong and healthy.

Soul Possession, My PFB Hitterish Sofa said...

what would be so bad of having Espi hit right handed period?

He would have to do it against right-handed pitchers.

Try looking at it this way--it's a gloss, but bear with me: Instead of seeing it as "He isn't hitting left-handeded," think of it as "He isn't hitting against right-handed pitchers." Generally speaking, same-sided matchups favor the pitcher, so if he's not hitting rightys from the left side, it's unlikely to get easier from the right.

But the real reason is the same one as always--you can't just stop switch-hitting mid-season. He'd have to re-learn how to hit right-handers all over again, and that takes a while. Of course, one might point out that is what he's trying to do now.

Soul Possession, My PFB Hitterish Sofa said...

"He isn't hitting left-handeded,"

I think I found his problem--he's got a hiccup in his left-handed-ed swing!

Gonat said...

DC Wonk, Davey doesn't underthink anything.

This is Danny's swing chart from this year:

http://pitchfx.texasleaguers.com/charts/gen/4577872012050120120529AAAAAswinging.png

Gonat said...

Here's Danny in 2 consecutive at-bats when the book was low strike middle of the plate and then get him to chase away out of the stike zone. The first time he struck out and the 2nd time he reached out of the strike zone for a ground out. Almost exact same sequence and Danny didn't learn the first time or the 2nd time:

http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/numlocation.php-pitchSel=502239&game=gid_2012_05_01_arimlb_wasmlb_1&batterX=14&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3.gif


http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/numlocation.php-pitchSel=502239&game=gid_2012_05_01_arimlb_wasmlb_1&batterX=29&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3.gif

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