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From behind the center field bullpen wall at Petco Park on Monday night, Carlos Estévez watched Antonio Senzatela enter the seventh inning having given up just five hits and one walk on just 75 pitches in his debut start of 2019.
With two outs already recorded and a runner on first base in a 5-1 game, Padres manager Andy Green went to his bench to insert Hunter Renfroe.
Though the numbers were favorable for Senzatela against Renfroe (1-for-10), Bud Black knew with one swing of the bat, Renfroe could easily make the score 5-3 and alter the momentum in favor of the NL West leaders.
With knowledge of this, Black made a call to the pen for Estévez.
Estévez quickly got a dribbler in front of the plate and ended the small threat in the seventh.
He would go on to work a scoreless eighth inning and though he did not record a hold due to the score at the time, his multi-inning contribution was vital for a club in need of every win it can get.
Before this season, Estevez hadn’t been well known for his ability to go more than an inning.
In his rookie year of 2016 when he saved 11 games, he pitched more than one inning only one time once he was took over the role as closer; only six of his 35 appearances in 2017 were multi-inning.
In 2019, he’s already gone more than an inning in four of his seven outings.
“It feels good going multiple innings,” shared the 26-year-old. “I did it once in spring. It feels good honestly. It doesn’t feel as hard as it used to a few years ago because I was in a role as a one-inning guy or a cleanup guy. But now, I feel pretty good with it.”
When it comes to warming up in the bullpen and knowing whether or not he’ll be needed for four or more outs, there isn’t always that plan as the present batter is simply the most pressing matter.
“It’s just get ready. ‘You’re going in for the next hitter.’ That’s all,” he says. “I don’t know how long I’m going to go or if I’m going to face two hitters or what’s going to happen.”
So, as with all outings, when Estévez came into the dugout after the third out of the seventh, the conversation typically spells out whether or not he’ll be needed for more outs.
“They’re pretty clear with that.” he shared. “Sometimes, my spot is coming up and they’ll go, ‘Hey, if we get to your spot (in the lineup), you’re done.’ Or, ‘you’re going back out.’ Or ‘if the game changes, we’re going to do a double-switch’ or whatever and bring someone else into the game.”
With the pitcher’s spot due up seventh, the odds suggested that Estévez would go back for the bottom of the eighth.
The top of the Padres lineup was scheduled, including the newly minted $300 million man, Manny Machado. Even with one of the best hitters in the game due up, there would no frantic efforts by Estévez or the coaching staff to scour a scouting report.
“We get ready before the games all the time so you know what’s going on,” the reliever commented. “At that moment, you just need to be focused on the game. They are big leaguers. They’re going to be making adjustments between at bats, between pitches, so you’ve just got to go with your main plan out there.”
When the pitcher’s spot didn’t come up in the top of the eighth, Estévez went back out to get three more outs in the bottom half of the inning.
Estévez would get two fly balls to right and a three-pitch strikeout of Machado, punctuated by a swing and miss from his 99 mph fastball, and his night was complete.
Black called on Estévez then next night in the eighth for help preserve the six run lead and secure a two-game sweep of the Padres that gave the Rockies a three-game winning streak.
In 7.2 innings of work this month, he’s struck out 9 and has yet to walk a batter, not to mention his last four outings have been scoreless.
Considering he did not make the Opening Day roster – he was the first one recalled when McGee went on the 10-day IL – Estévez looks driven to make pitch however long the Rockies need to ensure this opportunity does not get wasted.