Geno Espineli made his Major League debut on July 20. He started the day at Triple-A Fresno and was just a few days from heading to Beijing to play with the U.S. Olympic team. Now the 25-year-old right-hander is trying to establish himself at the big league level. The side-arming reliever, who has given up four earned runs in nine innings in the Majors so far, recently answered a few questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: You were selected to play for the the U.S. baseball team and were preparing to go to the Olympics, but you are now here with the Giants. How did that happen?
Espineli: I was selected to be on the Olympic team. If I were in the Minors as of July 23, I would have been on that team. I was called up here, and now I'm no longer eligible to go.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Though you are obviously happy to be at the big league level right now, is there a part of you that wishes you were in Beijing?
Espineli: It would have been a great opportunity. It was an honor to be selected. Being in the big leagues, though, is what you work for, and this is where you want to be. At the same time, you would love to go over there, but luckily I didn't have to make that choice. It was made for me. I'm thrilled to be in the big leagues and this is really where I want to be. It would have been great to be able to do both.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How did you get the news that you had been recalled?
Espineli: My Triple-A coach called me in, and sometimes when the coach calls you in it's good news. He started to tell me that I tested positive for something that was on the Olympic drug sheet. I fell for it. I had just taken that test. I was wondering how I was going to explain that to everyone.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you the first Filipino to play at this level?
Espineli: To my knowledge, I am not the first person who was born in the Philippines to play here. But I believe I am the first full-blooded Filipino to play in the big leagues. I think that is pretty cool.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You were born in Texas. Do you hold citizenship both here and there?
Espineli: I was born in Houston and I have lived there my whole life. I have been Americanized, but both my parents are full-blooded Filipinos. I am proud of my heritage, and I have been [to the Phillippines] a couple of times. I do consider myself American, and that is how I was raised.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did the fact that the Olympic Games will take place in China, which is close to the Philippines, make that opportunity to compete in this version of the Games that much more appealing to you?
Espineli: It would have been cool to go there and to see the culture. I haven't been there. I would love to visit Japan someday as well. Those cultures have a lot of great history. I'd also like to go back to the Philippines soon.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your middle name, Macalalag, is unusual. Is that a family name?
Espineli: In the Philippines, the sons get their mother's maiden name for their middle name. So Macalalag is my mom's maiden name.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your first name is Eugene. Have you always gone by Geno?
Espineli: In baseball, yelling Geno is a lot easier than yelling Eugene. My friends back home call me Eugene.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is it true that you learned to grip your changeup from reading the back of a baseball card?
Espineli: That is true. I was trying to find different pitches to throw as a 10 year old, and I found that it was difficult to learn them. One day, the back of a baseball card -- I don't remember who the player was, but the player played for either the Mets or the Yankees -- showed a close-up picture of how to grip a changeup. It has always stuck with me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You are a side-armer. How did you learn to throw the ball in that manner?
Espineli: I started it in high school. They tried to correct me in college, to give me more efficient mechanics. I didn't change, and once I got to pro ball nobody tried to change me. I was told as long as I stayed with that, I might have a chance to go to the big leagues.
MLBPLAYERS.com: And have you always pitched in relief?
Espineli: As much as any other pitcher, I guess you would say. I have alternated in my life, but I have always been geared toward relief. I have the ability to throw multiple days. It sort of goes along with my stamina, I think.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.