07/20/08 3:49 PM ET
Giants replace hurt Yabu with Espineli
Japanese reliever goes on disabled list with sprained finger
By David Biderman / MLB.com
Before heading out for the latter half of a doubleheader with Triple-A Fresno, Espineli learned -- the hard way -- that he'd been called up to the big leagues.
Grizzlies manager Dan Rohn called the lefty reliever into his office and told him he'd failed a drug test. Espineli, recently selected to the U.S. Olympic team, tried to gather himself, not knowing his skipper was playing a prank on him.
"I was thinking, 'God, how am I going to explain this to everybody?"
He's still got news to explain, only it's good, not grim.
In the move corresponding with Espineli's addition to the active Major League roster, Keiichi Yabu was placed on the disabled list after telling manager Bruce Bochy that his right middle finger was bothering him. Yabu was diagnosed with a sprain of the digit.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Espineli, the Giants transferred Dave Roberts from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL. The outfielder has been disabled since April 8, so the move won't affect the team's ability to bring him back sometime this week.
Giants relievers have allowed 23 runs in the past eight games -- with Yabu struggling in particular -- so Espineli's presence is more than welcome. In 52 1/3 innings this season, the 25-year old has struck out 43, walked six and maintained a 2.06 ERA. He's struck out six and allowed two runs in his past 8 2/3 innings.
"As far as I know, this is still a day-to-day thing," said Espineli, who hasn't pitched since Wednesday when he struck out three batters in one inning of work in the Triple-A All-Star Game. "I just got done telling all my family and friends to watch the Olympics."
Espineli, though, no longer will be making a trip to Beijing.
"I figured [a callup] was coming, I just didn't think it'd be this early," he said.
A sidearmer who throws a mid-80s fastball and primarily works off his changeup -- which he learned from the back of a baseball card when he was 12 -- Espineli believes he's the first Filipino pitcher in Major League history.
His changeup is "more of a feel pitch than a grip pitch," and he developed his slider last season. Espineli will be the 12th Giant to make his big league debut this season, along with Alex Hinshaw, his roommate the past two seasons in the Minors.
"I called Hinshaw late last night on my way [to San Francisco]," Espineli said. "He was telling me he'd show me the ropes, like he's already a salty vet after two months in the bigs."
Did Hinshaw tell him anything serious?
"Not really. Just get here on time and keep your mouth shut," Espineli joked.
Yabu, 39, was one of San Francisco's most consistent relievers earlier this season. Through mid-June, he had a 1.88 ERA in 38 1/3 innings. Since then, though, his ERA has nearly doubled (3.64) and he's allowed 18 hits and 11 runs in 12 appearances. He's hit a batter in each of his past three games.
Following Saturday's game, when he allowed one run in a blown save, Yabu said he'd be OK if he could keep his slider down -- he didn't mention his injured finger.
"It's bothering Yabu," Bochy said. "It's something that he brought up after the game that's been bothering him and affecting his pitches."
David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.