Sometimes you just roll the dice and come up with a winner. That seems to be the Padres of late, with two rookie pitchers in Jesse Hahn and Odrisamer Despaigne. I say that because the former had not pitched above Double-A before rolling out to a 4-1 start in the bigs, while the latter had pitched in Triple-A but had gone 1-3 with a 7.61 ERA!
Of course, Despaigne was a Cuban National star beforehand, and in many cases other Cuban players have shown that they need the bigger stage to really turn things on. Think of Orlando Hernandez with the Yankees in the post-season. For his career, the Cuban older brother of 1997 World Series hero Livan Hernandez went 90-65 with a 4.13 ERA. Respectable enough. In the playoffs however, he took it another level, ending up 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA.
In the past several seasons of course, we have seen Yoenis Cespedes come in and mash pitching in Oakland without playing in the minor leagues at all. Last year, Yasiel Puig wowed us with his throws from right-field, inexplicable base running, and of course, his hitting. This year he is actually hitting better with less fanfare, but the Dodgers are back again in first place thanks in large part to his production.
Back to Despaigne though for a minute. He has gone 2-0 in his two Padres’ starts, and has pitched at least 6 2/3 innings in both starts. Only one run allowed so far. The San Diego Union Tribune’s Dennis Lin does report that he has had trouble striking people out, and indeed has induced only seven swinging strikes, but let’s not get too worried about that yet. Knowing how to pitch and outsmart hitters can go a long way. Despaigne (like Hahn) has some great breaking pitches, and can change his arm angles, pitches, and speeds seemingly at will to get the job done.
Despaigne is 27 according to his birth certificate, and is pitching like a veteran up on the major league stage. He has walked 4 in his 13+ innings of work and certainly control is a major area to watch for a pitcher who can’t blow the hitters away with a moving fastball. Efficiency though is the name of the game, and like Greg Maddux used to do, Despaigne seems to realize that getting hitters to not hit a ball square is sometimes better than trying to make them not hit it at all.
Cameron Maybin chimes in that “It’s been fun to watch from center field. The guy really has a clue what he’s doing out there.”
Despaigne makes his third start of the season Saturday night at home against the Giants. Here’s hoping the early success just keeps on going.