Pearson and Ortiz shine, but Espinal literally steals the show

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

It’s June 10, 2019 and here’s what’s been going on lately on the path 400 miles to Toronto.

400 Miles to Toronto: New Hampsire Fisher Cats Column

Weekly Game Recap

 

A Running Walk-Off

The biggest story of the week came on Saturday with Santiago Espinal, who provided a thrilling walk-off steal of home on Saturday against Richmond, even if the “walk” part of that walk-off was a sprint finished with a head first slide.

According to Fisher Cats home radio announcer Bob Lipman, Espinal’s walk-off steal was the first in New Hampshire’s 15-year franchise history.

Espinal has some speed, but isn’t New Hampshire’s best base stealer, with only six this season following Sunday’s contest. However, he has enough speed that he can swipe a bag with the right circumstances.

On Saturday, the biggest part of those circumstances came in the form of Richmond reliever Sam Moll. A southpaw, Fisher Cats manager Mike Mordecai noticed that Moll was dropping his head just before his pitch, with his back to third.

That, combined with Espinal’s speed, a desire to rest New Hampshire’s bullpen arms, Richmond third baseman Jonah Arenado playing off the bag and lefty Chad Spanberger at the plate giving Espinal a clear path down the line provided all the ingredients for a magic moment.

“When we got to two strikes (on Spanberger), I motioned to (Espinal) if you want to go, just go,” said Mordecai. “It was one of the easier steals of home you’ll ever see.”

Good News for Pearson

Elite prospect Nate Pearson looks like a trip to Triple-A is in his near future if Sunday’s performance is any indication.

Only Johneshwy Fargas’ fourth-inning single separated Pearson and reliever Willy Ortiz from a joint no-hitter, but more importantly in the long term, Sunday was Pearson’s first five-inning performance since getting the call up to Double-A.

Despite his talent, questions surrounded Pearson’s elbow, especially after a fractured forearm last year made the Blue Jays organization keep a close eye on Pearson’s pitch count.

Mordecai’s focus on Pearson is less about his arm health and more about something he’s been preaching to his entire staff: establish the fastball and then work in the breaking stuff, something that they’re all beginning to do as their confidence grows.

Overall Status

The 2019 Fisher Cats’ major weakness remains at the plate, especially in terms of consistency.

Developmentally, the Eastern League provides a final stage for young hitters to prove that they have the needed skills to produce in the majors.

Mordecai gives all his batters a green light to bunt to advance runners, but he also tells his guys that there are just times when they have to swing.

There has certainly been improvement over rough patch in early April, but more work is still needed, even if the Fisher Cats skipper is pleased with the improvement he’s seen so far.

“We’re doing okay. There are times when we don’t take advantage of the opportunities we have,” said Mordecai.  “That being said, we don’t stop competing, we keep competing until the last out.”

Coming Up

The Fisher Cats get a taste of deja vu as they get this week’s opponents once again, only in different venues through a trip south of the Mason/Dixon Line.

The Fisher Cats return to New Hampshire on June 18 with a homestand against Binghamton (June 18 – 20) and Trenton (June 21 to 23).

Fisher Cats of the Week

Batting: Vinny Capra – 8-for-24 (.333), 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI

Pitching: Willy Ortiz – 2-0 , 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 7 Ks, 3 BB