Friday, September 3, 2010

Opposite is good for Espinosa

PITTSBURGH — It's one thing to hit your first career home run in your first career start. It's quite another to hit that home run to the opposite field, then follow it up with an opposite-field, RBI double from the other side of the plate three innings later.

Suffice it to say, Danny Espinosa will be remembering tonight's game for the rest of his life, even if it resulted in an 8-5 loss to the Pirates.

"It was a great feeling," he said of his third-inning homer to right. "Just one of those sweet feelings when the ball comes off the bat."

Espinosa's solo blast came off a 1-1 changeup from left-hander Zach Duke, a pitch that sat on the outside corner of the strike zone. Plenty of 23-year-olds with three days of big-league experience would try to pull that pitch and wind up grounding out weakly to short. Espinosa, though, showed a knack for going the other way all season at Class AA and AAA and he's carried that trait with him to the major-league level.

The ball sailed on a line to right field and landed in the bleachers above the 21-foot-high wall.

"That ball was a missile," said bench coach John McLaren, who is filling in as manager while Jim Riggleman serves a two-game suspension.

By the time Espinosa came up to bat in the sixth, the Pirates had right-hander Sean Gallagher on the mound, so the rookie switch-hitter turned around to bat from the left side of the plate. Espinosa battled his way through a long at-bat, with Gallagher making five pickoff attempts at first base along with six pitches to the plate. Espinosa took the first five, working the count full, then took a 3-2 fastball deep to left-center field for an RBI double.

Another big opposite-field hit for the rookie.

"It's a big part [of my game]," he said. "They can't just pitch me one way. I'm not just a dead-pull hitter."

McLaren scouted Espinosa during the Arizona Fall League and was impressed with his skills. But he's seen some significant development over the last 11 months, especially when it comes to the kid's ability to hit to the opposite field.

"That shows the progress he's made," McLaren said. "Most young kids have got the pull thought in their mind. But this kid, I know he's a hard worker. He's just an endless worker. You're starting to see the results. He's worked his way up to the big leagues in a short period of time. He's changed positions, and he's picked it up quickly. He's fun to watch."

The members of Espinosa's family who were seated in Section 110 tonight — his parents, two sisters and girlfriend — had plenty of fun watching him for the first time in a major-league uniform.

"It was awesome," Espinosa said. "I was so excited. It was just a great feeling. Hearing them cheering, it made me real happy."


Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

I do believe we have found our opening day second baseman for 2011.

Adam Kennedy, please pick up the white courtesy phone on the baggage level.

Big Cat said...

Wow....this could be our middle defense for a long time. Despite all of Desmonds errors, he is gonna be an all-star shortstop down the road. The pieces are coming together.....slowly.

Mr Baseball said...

Hopefully Espinosa can keep it up and be our second baseman next season. I also think he may have the ability to be a lead off hitter. Would be nice to have a switch hitter in that spot. Maybe another Ricky Henderson, with power and speed.

I couldn't believe we started Nyger last night. We have condoned everything he has done this season and now Riggleman adds more fuel to the fire. Riggleman has brought this on all season by continuing to over look his lapses, and always rewarding Nyger. With Riggleman Nyger knows he can do whatever he desires and there is no repercussion. First Nyger IS NOT a CF, at best he is a LF. Bernadina is the CFer on this team. He would have caught the ball Nyger missed in CF last night. I would like to see Bernadina get all the opportunties Nyger receives. Roger is a better player this Nyger, if given the same chances. Plus look at the age difference!

JaneB said...

Giddy in Silver Spring writes: I feel the same excitement about Espinosa that I felt when we first got Zimm this is a guy who will be with us a long and happy time. I'm grateful to Adam Kennedy for all he has done for us, especially this last month. And I wish Riggs would keep him batting in the one slot. But I am looking forward to seeing Espinosa own second plate next season and a long time thereafter.
And whomever wrote that we should give up Dunn for Josh at first base...nuh uh/ We KEEP Dunn, What a great infield and heart of the order batting we would have then!

Anonymous said...

Josh @ first is only if Dunn is not here.

Anonymous said...

Espinosa is the most exciting talent we've seen in quite some time. We haven't seen much of his arm, but reports are that he has an absolute cannon from SS which is his primary position. Maybe he'll get a shot at SS and we can minimize the effects of Desmond's countless errors.

BinM said...

Anon @10:25:
In terms of position players, Espinosa is the most exciting talent we've seen since September 2009 (Desmond), who was the most exciting talent we'd seen since July 2009 (Morgan), who was the most exciting talent we'd seen since September 2008 (Maxwell).
He's simply the newest flavor. I think he's good, but give him time - Let's see what he looks like through spring training 2011, before we annoint him.

Mark L said...

Espinosa at 2nd & Desmond at SS is backwards, hopefully they'll remedy that in the offseason.

Josh said...

Desmond had monster hitting numbers in the minors, but Espinosa isn't too far behind, and he has much better fielding numbers. I don't think either Maxwell or Morgan is in the same discussion. Besides that, Guzman to Desmond was a huge leap forward... the excitement over him was justified IMO.

Anonymous said...

Espinosa at 2nd & Desmond at SS is backwards, hopefully they'll remedy that in the offseason.

I think they need to alternate to some extent in ST and learn to play third. If you lose a Zimmerman to an injury it might be better to move an Espinosa to third base as opposed to someone else until Zim is ready again. Right now Gonzalez is handling that role as Harris seems to not be a very good MI. Lombardozzi, also a switch hitter, might be ready to play at some point next year after the AFL and some more time in Harrisburg plus Syracuse. He won't be as exciting but he might be a good addition as a utility guy in place of Kennedy ... not sure about Gonzo.

I think they should all be flexible, adaptable depending on the need.

In any case, finally, MI should no longer be an area of concern. Catcher, especially if Flores manages to make it back next season, should no longer be an area of concern.

Its down to outfield and top of the rotation starting pitching. Perhaps Detwiler and JZimm will finally realize their potential and resolve the latter. Plus Maya.

Outfield is another story.

BinM said...

My point was that each of those players (Espinosa, Desmond, Morgan, & Maxwell) got hyped, by both the media & the fanbase quickly after hitting the lineup. Fans were 'over-the-top' on praise for each of them after their debut, myself included. The cautionary tale is that "The next new thing" isn't always "the next best thing".

Certainly Desmond replacing Guzman was a step forward for the club, albeit a risky one, as Desmond gave the team much better range defensively at SS, as well as more power offensively. The sacrifice was in the # of errors committed & overall defensive ranking, but focusing on one player diffuses the argument.

Anonymous said...


Would you please consider blocking users who consistently refer to Nyjer Morgan as "Nyger" -- and always do so in a negative light. Others have attempted to correct this for so long that I really doubt this is a contiuning inability to spell but racism hiding behind the convenience of a typo. I for one am sick of it.

BinM said...

Anon @1:56:
Zimmerman is a 'cornerstone' player, pencilled in for 150-160GP at 3B in 2011. If Desmond & Espinosa are the teams' projected MI combo for 2011, then leave them where they are. The team still has both AGonz & Kennedy ($2M/500k for 2011) on the roster for 2011 to play 3B in a pinch.

The teams' real offensive liabilities are in replacing Dunn's LH power-hitting (if he walks away), CF/RF (if Willingham moves to 1B & Bernadina to LF), and the bench (if Morse moves to RF & no LH bat replaces him).

The starting pitching will come from 8-9 of the 16 currently available from the roster (Atilano, Chico, Detwiler, L.Hernandez, Jaime, Lannan, Marquis, JD Martin, Martis, Mattheus, Maya, Mock, Olsen, Thompson, Wang, JZimm, or their replacements. It might be a long season without Strasburg, but it's survivable.

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