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Former Pigs come home

If you like seeing former IronPigs players, this homestand has been a good opportunity for you to see some old friends.

The Buffalo Bisons have former Phillies pitching prospect Jacob Waguespack on their roster and they were followed in by the Syracuse Mets with infielder Danny Espinosa on their roster.

Waguespack got the start for Buffalo on Sunday and was hit for five earned runs in five innings of work. The outing wasn’t typical for what Waguespack has done for the Bisons this season. The 25-year old right-hander came to town with a 3.54 ERA and a 2-2 record in four starts with Buffalo. The rough outing against Lehigh Valley upped his ERA to 4.62 on the season.

“He’s actually been our most consistent pitcher,” said Buffalo manager Bobby Meacham. “Like all of our starters, he hasn’t been able to pitch deep into games, but he’s put together some consistency.”

Waguespack made it through six innings in his first start of the season against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but hasn’t gotten through five innings in any of his starts since. He’s averaging five innings per start in the early going.

Danny Espinosa hit just .200 in 31 games with Lehigh Valley last season before being released. He also played with Oklahoma City and Buffalo last season before signing a minor league deal with the Mets during the offseason.

This season is going a little better for Espinosa, who is hitting .267 with Syracuse, the top minor league affiliate for the Mets.

In addition to seeing Espinosa for this four-game series, fans have the opportunity to see former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who is trying to forge a career in baseball for himself. Tebow didn’t start in the series opener, but did appear as a pinch-hitter and struck out on three pitches. His appearance generated a smattering of boos and an equal amount of cheers among the fans in attendance. On the season, Tebow is batting just .150 with Syracuse.

Other former IronPigs players are popping up throughout both the majors and the minors. A popular offseason trade made between the Phillies and Mariners sent shortstop J.P. Crawford to Seattle. Crawford is at Triple-A and is hitting .291 with five home runs and 11 RBI on the season. The problem for Crawford is that Tim Beckham is playing shortstop in Seattle and is also putting up solid early numbers with six home runs and a .286 average.

Another former IronPigs infielder off to a solid start is 35-year old Andres Blanco. While Blanco hasn’t played in the majors since 2017 when he was there with the Phillies, Blanco was able to find a home with the Atlanta Braves during the winter. He’s playing with the Gwinnett Spinners and has five home runs, 15 RBI and a .306 average. Gwinnett makes its only trip to Lehigh Valley June 11-13.

Former IronPigs and Phillies starter Ben Lively pitched in the majors with both Philadelphia and Kansas City last season, but opened the year at Triple-A Omaha in the Royals organization. Lively made three starts and one relief appearance for Omaha this season and had a 4.41 ERA. When Kansas City needed a fresh arm for the bullpen, they recalled Lively and he made his season debut on Sunday and got hit for three runs in an inning of work.

Meanwhile, former Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Year Tom Eshelman continues to struggle. The Phillies sent him to Double-A Reading hoping to build some confidence, but it has backfired. In three starts for the Fightins, Eshelman has a 9.53 ERA. Eshelman allowed just two earned runs in five innings, but he’s allowed 10 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings since then.

FRONT OF THE CLASS... Catcher Deivy Grullon is currently the International League’s leading hitter with a .397 average. His 3-for-4 night against Syracuse Monday leap frogged him over two other players to the top spot in the league. To show how much more of a hitter’s league the Pacific Coast League is, Grullon’s .397 mark doesn’t even put him in the top 10 in the PCL. Grullon is also eighth in the IL in on-base percentage (.438) and fourth in slugging percentage (.672). Lane Adams and Dylan Cozens are tied for eighth in the IL in home runs with six.

Among pitchers, Cole Irvin leads the IL in innings pitched at 29 2/3 and he is third in ERA at 1.82. Edubray Ramos is tied for sixth in the league in saves with three.

FRONT OF THE CLASS, PART 2... Lehigh Valley leads the International League in winning percentage at .696 with a 16-7 record. They hold a 1.5 game lead over Syracuse in the IL North, with Scranton five games back and Pawtucket 5.5 games out.