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WASHINGTON – In August of 2017, after making his Major League debut for Milwaukee in May, right-handed pitcher Paolo Espino was traded by the Brewers to Texas.

Once he arrived with the Rangers, the native of Panama met Brad Holman – then the bullpen coach for Texas.

Now the two are united in the Nationals’ system and Espino is slated to return to the majors for the first time in three years as the scheduled starter in Game 2 of the doubleheader here today against the Philadelphia Phillies. Meanwhile, Holman was wrapping things up at the alternate site in Virginia with a bullpen session for prized prospect Jackson Rutledge on Tuesday morning.

It will be his first outing for Espino in the majors since Sept. 30, 2017, when he pitched the ninth inning out of the bullpen for the Rangers in an 8-4 win over Oakland.

Espino, 33, had been at the alternate site in Fredericksburg and part of the 60-player pool before his contract was purchased and he joined Washington’s 40-man roster.

“He has been pitching well, he has been stretched out,” manager Dave Martinez said Tuesday.

“For me, it is another one of those good feel-good stories. We liked what he was doing down there (at the alternate site) so we are going to give him an opportunity to start today.”

“He is a strike-thrower. He reminds me a little of Sánchez, Aníbal. He works both sides of the plate,” Martinez added. “I expect him to go out and just compete.”

Espino has pitched in 12 games – all in 2017 with the Brewers and Rangers – and has made two starts in his career.

The right-hander pitched under Holman last year at Triple-A Fresno, as he went 8-4, 5.65 in 17 starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Espino was drafted in the 10th round by the Cleveland Indians out of the IMG Academy in Florida in 2006.

“There is not a better person on the face of the Earth, he never complains,” Holman, now the Nationals’ player development pitching coordinator told Federal Baseball. “He has an elite curveball.”

“His best pitch is his curveball; it has an elite spin rate,” assistant general manager Mark Scialabba told Federal Baseball on Monday.

The last start in the majors for Espino came on June 8, 2017, for the Brewers.

He went four innings against the Giants and allowed five hits and three runs and did not figure in the decision as Milwaukee lost at home, 9-5.

The starting first baseman for the Brewers was Eric Thames, now in his first season with the Nationals.

The leadoff hitter for the Giants in that game was Denard Span, a former Washington center fielder. Joe Panik hit a homer off Espino in the third inning.

Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon came out of the bullpen that day in 2017 for the Giants.

Strickland spent part of last season with the Nationals while Melancon was with Washington for part of the 2016 season.

Espino started the first two games of his Major League career, then pitched out of the bullpen in the next 10. His team is 3-9 in games in which he has pitched going into the contest Tuesday night against the Phillies.

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