Eduard Pinto joined the Spokane Indians for 22 games last season, finishing with two RBIs in 80 at-bats.
Pinto surpassed that total Friday night with one swing, a three-run double in the second inning that guided the Indians to a 7-3 victory over the Eugene Emeralds to open the Northwest League season at Avista Stadium. Pinto added an RBI single during a three-run fourth, finishing 3 for 5 in the leadoff spot.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” the Venezuelan said through interpreter Jose Jaimes, the Indians’ pitching coach. “That was my whole goal today.”
Pinto had one extra-base hit – a double – for the Indians last season. The left-handed outfielder’s bases-clearing double off Eugene starter Yimmi Brasoban went over the head of left fielder Jose Urena to score Marcus Greene, Seth Spivey and Saquan Johnson for a 3-0 lead.
“(Pinto) filleted a (single) down the left-field line in the first inning and I think that kind of set the left fielder up the next time up,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “They had scooted in on him and he got a ball up. The wind helped him out a little bit, but he hit it pretty good.”
“I was looking for something in the middle away,” Pinto said. “He threw a fastball away and I was able to drive it to the opposite field.”
Johnson, in his third season with Spokane, kept the inning alive by coaxing a two-out walk after falling way behind in the count.
“He got 0-2 and battled the guy and ended up getting the walk,” Hulett said. “Those are things he wasn’t that great at last year. He couldn’t extend innings like that.”
Indians returners Pinto, Greene, Johnson and Jamie Jarmon finished 7 for 15 with four runs and five RBIs.
Spokane starter Nick Gardewine shook off a shaky start to the fifth inning – Marcus Davis’ two-run homer to left to cut the lead to 6-3 – to finish the frame and earn the win.
“The fourth inning he started getting gassed and you could see it,” Hulett said. “You start wondering, how far am I going to go with him? But he’s a bulldog-type pitcher and did a great job.”
Pinto, in left field, aided Gardewine’s cause by chasing down Nick Schulz’s long blast to the wall in the second.
Spokane relievers Andrew Barnett, Luis Pollorena and John Fasola combined for four scoreless innings, allowing two hits, striking out four and walking none. Barnett allowed Franchy Cordero’s leadoff triple to center in the sixth, but he left him at third with two strikeouts and a liner to short. Pollorena worked two sharp innings and Fasola had a 1-2-3 ninth.
“(Lefty) Pollorena pitched in a lot of tough situations last year,” Hulett said. “He throws a lot of strikes and he’s tough on righties, too.”
The Indians added to their roster right-handers Andrew Barnett, Reed Garrett, Darrell Hunter and Adam Parks, left-hander Shane McCain and shortstop Alberto Triunfel.