DUNEDIN -- At first it looked like a scene that could be found prior to numerous spring training game. A minor-leaguer from the other organization coming over to perhaps reunite with fellow countrymen or past high school or college teammates.
But then more and more Red Sox players came over to give this Blue Jays player hugs and well wishes. Finally, out came Alex Cora.
Santiago Espinal held a special place in the hearts of everyone in the Red Sox organization.
"He said, 'This is the guy who got traded for the MVP,' and started laughing," said Espinal of his reunion with the Sox manager. "He told me, 'Thank you.' I just started laughing. It was funny."
Espinal is far from just another 24-year-old minor-league infielder. This is the guy the Red Sox traded to the Blue Jays to secure the services of Steve Pearce, last year's World Series MVP and the one-half of the Sox' current first base platoon.
"I played with those guys last year and my first year with them was 2016 when I signed. So I know them pretty well," Espinal said. "They’re my brothers and now I’m playing against them."
The shortstop has settled in with the Blue Jays as one of their top infield prospects, having finished 2018 by capably playing 42 games with Double-A New Hampshire. But last season certainly was a whirlwind for Espinal, even before getting the chance to watch Pearce do his thing in the postseason.
It was in the third inning and I came into the dugout and they told me, ‘Hey, we don’t know what happened but you might get traded or you might get moved up.’ I was standing in the dugout thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ Then in the game they told me, ‘You got traded for Steve Pearce and you have to be in Dunedin the next day.’ So I had to go back to my apartment and pack everything and take an airplane the next day. I got here and played the next day, right away."
Then came October.
"I was watching the game. It was an interesting game. I saw him hit that homer and he got MVP. I was kind of surprised I was traded for this guy that got MVP. They told me, ‘Thank you.’ At the time and right now, too. I started laughing," said Espinal, who may start 2019 as high as Triple-A. "It’s crazy how you get traded out of nowhere and then you see the guy who you got traded for win the MVP. Everybody in the world knows it. It was fun."