In the hierarchy of minor league baseball, nobody wants to move down. But that’s what happened to David Paisano, and that’s how he joined the roster of the Spokane Indians. He’s their hot-hitting center fielder. Heading into tonight’s home game, Paisano was second in the Northwest League in RBIs with 30. He had a .270 batting average and nearly hit for the cycle (he needed a triple) on July 22.
So why, earlier this year, did the Texas Rangers send Paisano down from the Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings to the short-season single-A Indians?
“What they had told him was that it was his hitting,” Spokane hitting coach Luis Ortiz said. “They feel that he’s major league caliber and he needs to move up. And as soon as his hitting catches up with his fielding, he should move up pretty quickly in the organization.”
With the LumberKings, Paisano had just seven hits in 54 at-bats. He was batting .130.
But when they sent him down, the 20-year-old was crushed.
“I came back, not so much with a little of a bad attitude, but I was very disappointed,” the Venezuelan said through an interpreter. “I couldn’t understand why I was getting sent down.”
Paisano’s 2007 season with the LumberKings was difficult, he said. Coaches told him that if his hitting improved, he would move up. He put a lot of pressure on himself and he got more and more frustrated. It was hard working with his hitting coaches because they didn’t speak much Spanish.
That season, he batted .203 – a considerable downturn from his .338 average with the Venezuelan Summer League in 2006.
“One of the reasons they sent him here was because of me, being able to communicate better,” said Ortiz, a former major leaguer from the Dominican Republic. “He probably wasn’t understanding as well the coaches who only spoke English with him.”
When Paisano first got to Spokane, he was caught up in the move. He wanted to prove he could hit and jump right back up to Clinton, he said. But now he is relaxing, calming down and settling into his new job with the Indians.
His hitting has been improving, Ortiz said. The duo has worked hard on Paisano’s hands – keeping them steady, keeping them consistent on every swing. Learning the “Texas Rangers’ way of hitting,” Ortiz said.
Paisano said he is feeling a lot better and his confidence is growing.
“It’s time to see some of the flair, that little bit that we see in the outfield, in the hitting,” Ortiz said.
How about five RBIs against the Yakima Bears on July 19? How about four against the Everett AquaSox on Monday? How about four doubles and three home runs in his past 10 games?
The Rangers could be starting to see what they hoped for when they acquired Paisano in a trade with the Chicago White Sox in 2006.
In 2005, Paisano signed with Chicago as a free agent – “probably the best day of my life,” he said – out of his hometown of Cumana, Venezuela. The second youngest of eight children in a middle-class family, Paisano started organized baseball when he was 7 years old and never stopped.
By the time he was 15, people started telling him he had some promising skills, and he started working hard to play professionally. He was chasing his oldest brother, Julio (now 33), who was a talented baseball player until he got injured.
“My brother is a very good softball hitter now,” Paisano joked.
The scruffy-haired Paisano has a goofy sense of humor Indians fans rarely see. But last Thursday, on Myron Noodleman night at Avista Stadium, Paisano jumped out of the dugout between innings and danced with the Clown Prince of Baseball.
Paisano has easily settled into Spokane, saying there is “no contest” between the Lilac City and Clinton, Iowa.
“He’s been able to blossom as a player, with the freedom to play, more than anything,” Ortiz said.