THE EX FACTOR
It’s like old home week at McCoy Stadium. The Norfolk Tides, managed by former PawSox skipper, Ron Johnson are in town. RJ’s pitching coach is none other than Mike Griffin, formerly the pitching coach at Pawtucket. Ex Red Sox utility man Bill Hall plays for the Tides and Miguel Gonzalez, who pitched briefly for the PawSox in 2011, is on the Norfolk pitching staff. The Tides’ starting catcher, acquired on waivers after Boston designated him for assignment, is Luis Exposito. Expo began the season in Pawtucket and was slated to share the duties with Ryan Lavarnway.
Exposito is in the visitors’ clubhouse for the next few days, but he doesn’t mind. “It’s nice. It’s good to be back here and see faces that I haven’t seen in a while. Just catch up with friends I haven’t seen. It’s nice.” Expo sounds very happy in his new surroundings.”It was probably one of the happiest times of my life. It’s a good opportunity and the Orioles showed that they wanted me enough to put me on their roster. I’m grateful for that.”
Since his move, Luis Exposito has appeared in 8 Major League games for the Orioles. he says it was a remarkable experience. “It was awesome. There’s no feeling like it. It’s what you work for since the time you were a kid. It’s where you want to be.” Even a highlight on ESPN’s SportsCenter didn’t fade his enthusiasm. It was him striking out against Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals. “It’s OK. He’s nasty, a tough guy to hit.”
Manager Ron Johnson has known Exposito since he was a young kid in the Red Sox chain. RJ told me that when the catcher became available, he advised the Orioles to snap him up. Expo is pleased the Orioles took his recommendation. “It’s magnificent. It’s a really good feeling. It boosts your confidence. It’s a change and sometimes change is good. Nothing against the Red Sox, but sometimes it’s business. There are no bad feelings. It’s part of the game and I’m happy with the change.”
Even though Expo and shortstop Jose Iglesias were close as teammates, Luis explains that the two really haven’t kept in touch. “I really haven’t talked to him at all. You know, guys are busy. I’ve had a lot going with my family. Moving and all. It’s been crazy. Luckily, we’ve been blessed to get through it. I’m glad he’s doing well. I’m rooting for him and just go from there.”
While Exposito seems genuinely thrilled in his new home, he laughed when asked about the biggest difference between the two organizations. “The fan base. It’s amazing here (Boston) That’s the biggest difference.” Expo adds that there is an adjustment to make. “Red Sox fans care about everything. They want you to excel. It boosts your confidence. It keeps you engaged consistently in the game. It’s beneficial for the players and the team as a whole.”
Exposito is excited for the future. He hopes to rejoin the parent Orioles and stay this time. He knows there is work to be done. “I’ve got to get the bat going. I had some good at bats up there. I tried to make the most of it. I feel like I caught well. They told me to get down here and get to work. They value me as a catcher and they want to see me play every day. I can’t be mad at them for that.”