Paolo Espino debuted in the majors with Milwaukee in 2017, but he was purchased by Texas later that season, and he pitched for the Rangers as well in his first MLB campaign.
Espino, 35, didn’t pitch in the majors again until 2020 with Washington, however, and in his third year with the Nationals, the right-hander took the mound Friday night with a 2.29 ERA, 3.38 FIP, eight walks, 27 Ks, and a .227/.271/.333 line against in 22 games, two starts, and 35 1⁄3 innings on the season.
Last time out before Friday’s outing, in his second start of the year, Espino allowed three hits, four walks, and three runs, two earned, in five innings of work, throwing his season-high 89 pitches, in five innings of work against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“Espino was good,” manager Davey Martinez said after a loss to the Nationals’ NL East rivals in that game.
“He kept us in the ballgame. He threw the ball. We had him penciled in for about four and 70. But he said he felt really good. He went out there for the fifth inning and did a good job. So hopefully now, he’s stretched out. So every five days he’ll get out there.”
Going into Friday’s series opener with the Texas Rangers, Martinez told reporters Espino was going to remain in the rotation for now, and was built up enough to go deep in his outings if possible.
“He went out there last time and did well, so we have no limitations on him right now. Just go out there and for him it’s just get quick outs and keep us in the ballgame,” he said prior to the series opener in Arlington, TX’s Globe Life Field.
“But he’s done well. Whatever we ask him to do he’s done really well. So, we just hope he goes out there and gives us 5-6 innings and we’ll go from there.”
In start No. 3 of 2022, Espino tossed five scoreless on 78 pitches, and he came back out for the sixth with a 1-0 lead, but gave it up two pitches in, when Adolis García hit an 0-1 curve 423-feet to left-center for a game-tying solo shot which evened things up, 1-1.
A one-out walk to Mitch Garver ended Espino’s outing after 89 pitches in 5 1⁄3 IP...
Paolo Espino’s Line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 89 P, 58 S, 6/6 GO/FO.
Espino generated eight swinging strikes on the night, four with his curve, and got 18 called strikes, half of them with his fastball. Rangers’ hitters did foul off 15 of his 89 pitches, but all in all it was another solid outing for the Nats’ veteran starter.
“He’s going out there, he’s competing every five days, and he’s throwing the ball well,” Martinez said after a 2-1 win for the Nationals.
“So, it’s a good sign for us that he can come out and do multiple things for us, and now he’s getting a chance to start and out there giving us five-plus innings is awesome. He kept us in the ballgame, that’s all I can ask him to do.”
As Martinez said before, Espino has had success in any role he’s asked him to fill.
“He’s very consistent, and he understands that he needs to throw strikes, and he needs to mix in all his pitches, and he does it well,” Martinez said. “And the big thing that we talked a lot about is that he has to get over that just that four-inning, five-inning, and I always told him, hey look, if you get an opportunity it’s six, seven-plus, you got to get yourself to that, and he’s learned how to try to get himself to that point, and like I said, by making pitches, getting early outs, and pitching. That’s what he does. He pitches, and he goes in and out, up and down, with all his pitches.
“And like I said, tonight was no different, he went out there and competed and kept us in the game.”
The fact that Espino has enjoyed the kind of success he has throwing an 88 MPH fastball, 71 MPH curve, 78 MPH slider, and an 83 MPH changeup, in an age of power arms is even more impressive.
“Those pitchers can be very effective,” Martinez said. “Key is throwing strikes, and getting ahead. Honestly, that’s the key to any pitcher, whether you throw 97 or you thrown 88-89, but you’ve got to get ahead and throw strikes.”
Espino finished the night with a 2.21 ERA on the season, though he told reporters it is too early to start thinking about his stats.
“That’s nice, but right now I’m not looking at ERA. It’s too early,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “I mean, hopefully I end up with a 2 at the end of the season, maybe even a 1. But it’s a long season. I don’t look at the ERA. I’m just out there trying to give the team a chance to win every single time I go out there.”