Prospect Notebook: Espinal Rested, Back to Hitting; Holmes Nearing Full Workload

INDIANAPOLIS — Edwin Espinal’s first career Triple-A game had an auspicious beginning and he didn’t look like the hitting prospect many had touted.

But with good reason.

Espinal’s flight to Indianapolis was delayed and he arrived at Victory Field at about 5:10 p.m., which would be cutting it close on most game days but Indianapolis was scheduled to play a doubleheader that day, so he only had 20 minutes to get ready.

Not much time to stretch, get to know the new surroundings or teammates. The hurried preparation showed. Espinal’s first two at-bats resulted in slow dribblers back to the pitcher, and he struck out in his final at-bat.

But he got a little rest after the first game of the doubleheader, and even though he went 0-for-3, hit two hard lineouts to left field. And after a good night’s rest, Espinal went 2-for-4 in games on Saturday and Sunday.

“That was tough, my body didn’t respond where I want,” Espinal said. “But I got ready. I slept in and I came ready to the game and you saw what happened. I just going to keep going and hitting the ball hard and the first game I didn’t see the ball very good. I had a little more time and had more time to get ready and you can see how I hit the ball.”

Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett previously coached Espinal in the Dominican Winter League and worked with him last year as a roving assistant hitting instructor within the Pirates organization.

“I love the kid because he brings energy and excitement to the team,” Barkett said. “He’s a leader on and off the field. He can really swing the bat, he’s having a heck of a year down (in Double-A Altoona). I’m looking forward to him doing what he does which is swing that pole and be who he is.”

Shoulder Getting Rested, Pitch Count Might Increase

Clay Holmes has had a decreased workload over the past month, partly due to shoulder fatigue and, at times, due to command issues. Though, the command issues could also be due to the shoulder fatigue.

Holmes hasn’t thrown more than 80 pitches in any of his previous five starts since throwing 101 pitches against Louisville in a late-June start. In two of those starts, Holmes issued six walks which is part of the reason he didn’t last longer.

He only allowed three hits and one earned run in his most recent start, but was taken out after throwing 72 pitches in 4.1 innings. Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett previously said Holmes isn’t on any type of pitch limit, but later admitted they are monitoring his work.

“Maybe a little bit because he had fatigue early on and we want to keep him fresh for a potential playoff run for the big league club,” Barkett said. “He’s a 40-man guy, so we want to make sure he’s fresh and available to use in the big leagues in September.”

Holmes’ velocity increased back towards the mid- to high-90s that he was throwing earlier in the season, but had previously dipped in recent weeks as the shoulder fatigue first settled.

“Feeling strong and seeing the stuff back to where it was at the beginning of the year was a big positive,” Holmes said. “Things felt great and I think I’m in a spot now where I can finish strong and finish healthy, and be my best at the end of the year.”

Nobody opened up about specifics, but internal discussions have centered around how to prevent Holmes from dealing with shoulder fatigue again in the future.

“I think it’s just something I have to work through,” Holmes said. “There’s no injury concern, so there’s no doubt or anything like that. I’m just trying to learn how to pitch through it and monitor it and stuff with things I do in the training room, the weight room. Nothing serious or concerning, but you have to learn.”

Ortiz Doesn’t Slow Down Due to Promotion of Others

When one player is promoted to the major leagues, that move can leave another player wondering where they stand within the organization.

Danny Ortiz could rightfully fall into that trap. Jordan Luplow’s promotion to the Pirates last week came at the expense of a potential second callup for Ortiz, who previously played nine games with the Pirates in May.

Ortiz didn’t shown any signs of a hangover after Luplow’s promotion, hitting three home runs in two days against Pawtucket, including a game-tying solo homer in the 10th inning of Indianapolis’ 12-inning victory.

“He’s been swinging the bat well for us and continues to show that he’s a veteran bat that can be counted on in a pennant race,” Barkett said. “He could have been someone to hang his head when he didn’t get called up and I’m sure other guys have, too. But you have to keep coming out and keep playing and proving yourself every day.”

Ortiz has 12 homers this season, all being hit since June 15, which ties him with Scranton Wilkes-Barre’s Jake Cave for the most in the International League during that span.

Don’t Try to Run

The last four baserunners trying to steal a base against Indianapolis have been thrown out. Tyler Glasnow picked off a runner on Sunday, while catcher Jacob Stallings threw out a runner trying to steal on Friday and Saturday. Elias Diaz threw out an attempted base stealer in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader.

  • I was probably one of the few who thought that Ortiz could’ve filled that 4th OF’er vacancy for us.

  • Wasn’t there a change to the number of players who could be added to rosters in Sept due to the CBA?

    • I had forgotten about that. I remember something about that too now that you mentioned it.

  • Glasnow picked off a runner? He’s really getting after it on all fronts.

    • Was thinking the same thing. Really glad Glasnow did not get traded like many were pining for in the Burgh. All anyone saw was his struggles but never take into consideration he was still learning how to pitch in the Majors and by all of the reports here and some on the Pirates pregame minor league reports, Tyler is figuring it out rather well. Me thinks he will look much better the next time he is brought up.

      • He’d be up now but by waiting until Sept 1 they gain the extra year of control. Frankly, I’m fine with that. This season is done.

      • He’ll be a reason to watch in September. I was as guilty as anyone with the second guessing and the whole “will this guy ever figure it out” even though he’s not quite 24. But it seemed like mechanics over a loss of stuff so to speak. And, for now anyway, he seems to be figuring it out. It’ll be interesting to see what his role is the rest of the year. Whether they give him innings in relief like last year or give him spot starts. But at this point I’d be surprised if he doesn’t start in the rotation next year barring an injury or complete spring training meltdown.

        • Mechanics, thinking too much, trying to hard, whole lot of things. Just like a lot of athletes in a lot of sports, able to make mistakes but have more than enough talent to get out of trouble because they are so much better than the talent around them. When you get to the top of the hill, those around them are all just as good and make you pay for mistakes.

        • piraterican21
          August 2, 2017 5:21 pm

          I don’t see what you guys see, I’m on the wait until he has a good, one good game (quality start, which is not a high bar) in the bigs and then maybe I will feel better.