Esposito Comes Up Short In MLB Debut With Rockies

Sept. 22, 2005

By Jack Etkin, Rocky Mountain News

Rest for 18 days before your major- league debut. Face the Class AAA Fresno Grizzlies in a game of little consequence, then oppose the San Diego Padres, smarting from a 20-1 thrashing one night earlier.

And, oh, yes, go up against Padres ace Jake Peavy.

That was the situation Mike Esposito encountered Wednesday when he started for the Colorado Rockies. Considering he had not faced a hitter since Sept. 2, the right-hander showed little signs of rust or nerves.

He took the loss as the Padres beat the Rockies 5-2, working five innings and allowing three runs. With the exception of Padres leadoff hitter Dave Roberts, Esposito had little problem with San Diego, which kept a five- game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

'I never like to lose,' Esposito said. 'But if I had to go back and critique myself, I would just say, 'I'd like to take Dave Roberts out of the lineup.' But for the most part, I felt like I made some pitches.'

Roberts tripled home Peavy, who started the third inning with a single. And with two out in the fourth inning, Roberts hit another triple, driving in Robert Fick, who had reached on an infield single.

Esposito, who turns 24 on Tuesday, started the game by throwing a strike against Roberts, who went 4-for-4.

Esposito said he felt 'normal nervousness' when he took the mound, nothing excessive considering his wife had come in from Phoenix with his parents, who live in Las Vegas.

'Usually in the past, it's been until I got the first strike that everything calmed down,' Esposito said. 'So it was good that it happened on the first pitch.'

Roberts grounded Esposito's second pitch into right field for a single, took second on a groundout and scored on a broken-bat single by Brian Giles with two out.

Esposito minimized the damage after each of Roberts' triples.

He got Mark Loretta to ground to first baseman Todd Helton for the first out of the third inning and retired Ramon Hernandez on a flyout. After falling behind Giles, Esposito intentionally walked him.

He walked Ryan Klesko but left the bases loaded by getting Khalil Greene to ground into a forceout.

After Roberts' two-out triple in the fourth inning, Esposito retired Loretta on a line drive to left field.

And with runners on first and second base in the fifth inning, he retired Greene and Joe Randa on flyouts.

Esposito threw 76 pitches, 42 for strikes, and got eight of his 15 outs on groundballs.

He faced 11 batters with runners in scoring position, with the Padres going 2-for-9 with two walks.

'He had good poise out there,' manager Clint Hurdle said. 'He worked quick. He was pretty pitch efficient. He had some traffic to deal with and kept his head about him and made some pitches. He was aggressive. He didn't back off. He put us in a position to win the game, so I'm very pleased with his outing.'

Said Peavy: 'He's got good stuff. I wish him the best, and I think he's going to be good.'

Esposito throws a sinking fastball, slider and changeup. His progress with Class AAA Colorado Springs came when he honed the latter pitch and started to throw it often.

'Didn't throw as many as I did normally this year,' Esposito said. 'They were putting my sinker in play. I was getting outs with it.'

While Esposito was getting a taste of the major leagues, the Padres were improving to 19-10 in games started by Peavy, who pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed two runs, lowering his earned-run average to 2.95.

'He stayed out of the middle of the plate,' Hurdle said. 'He shaved both corners and he changed speeds. . . . He shut us down.'

Closer Trevor Hoffman hit a speed bump before nailing down his 40th save and 37th in a row. He gave up a leadoff single to pinch hitter Aaron Miles in the ninth inning and made a throwing error while trying to start a double play.

But with two out and runners on second and third base, Hoffman struck out Clint Barmes, who beat Hoffman and the Padres with a three-run home run on Opening Day. Barmes seemed to check his swing but was called out by first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg to end the game.

Esposito was pitching in place of injured Zach Day. That turn in the rotation comes up Monday in Atlanta, and Esposito will oppose the Braves.

At Turner Field, Esposito will be pitching with normal rest, trying to build on his effective outing against the Padres.

'I didn't feel any effects of not facing hitters for a while,' Esposito said. 'For the most part, I went out there and did what I wanted to do, just left a couple pitches up.'