These players were willing to pitch in when needed

Like pitchers who fancy themselves as hitters, sometimes position players think they can pitch. Sometimes they even get to take the mound. Who cares if their team is losing big and they’re out there only so their manager can save his bullpen?

The experience remains memorable for six players who talked to the Sporting News about pitching in a big-league game.

How did you get the chance?

'I'd always wanted to pitch in the big leagues,' Cody Ross says.
‘I’d always wanted to pitch in the big leagues,’ Cody Ross says.

Marlins outfielder Cody Ross: "I’d always wanted to pitch in the big leagues, just to get in an inning in. I started lobbying for it in 2006, when Joe Girardi was here. I told him if you ever need someone to come in and eat up an inning, I’ll be the guy. I told Fredi (Gonzalez) the same thing."

Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher: "I was standing there. They said, ‘Have you ever pitched?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I didn’t tell them it was in high school."

Former Dodgers infielder Mark Loretta: "We had used a lot of pitchers and one of our setup guys was up and getting loose. (Third-base coach) Larry Bowa and I looked at each other and said, hopefully he doesn’t have to come into a game like this. I said, ‘I’ll go out there if I have do.’ Larry goes, ‘Are you serious?’ Then he goes, ‘Joe (Torre), Loretta will go.’ So Albert Pujols walked and Joe said, ‘Let’s go.’"

Reds infielder Aaron Miles: "Tony La Russa initially asked So Taguchi if he wanted to pitch, as a courtesy to the veteran guy who might want the experience. So didn’t want to. The only other guy was me. Tony looked over at me, there was no asking. You’re going down to the bullpen to get warmed up. You’re pitching the eighth."

Reds shortstop Paul Janish: "I’m from Houston and I went to Rice. Dusty (Baker) is very good buddies with Ralph Garr, who is a scout in Houston who had seen me pitch a bunch in college. He brought that up in the clubhouse when we were in Houston, and Dusty and I talked about it. Not long after that, we had Milwaukee in town and our bullpen had been pushed. He asked me and I said OK."

What were you thinking?

Ross: "You don’t want to walk anyone. Your team has been out there all day, you’re losing and this was a day game in Florida."

'The pitcher's mound is a lot closer than right field,' Nick Swisher says.
‘The pitcher’s mound is a lot closer than right field,’ Nick Swisher says.

Swisher: "You’re scared somebody’s going to hit a line drive back at you. The pitcher’s mound is a lot closer than right field."

Loretta: "We didn’t take batting practice so literally the first ball I threw that day was my first warm-up pitch. I wanted to be careful. I wasn’t about to start breaking off curves. I was just hoping I wouldn’t get hit in the face by a line drive and I would not walk the whole world."

When was the last time you had pitched?

Phillies first baseman Ross Gload (who was with the Marlins): "The 1994 Long Island championship game. My big league pitching debut (one inning, no runs) was better than my high school pitching career ended. We lost."

Janish: "In college, about six years before."

Ross: "When I was drafted in ’99, a lot of teams wanted me to pitch. They were comparing me to a Mike Hampton type. I pitched in instructional league in 2000 and a little with the Tigers (system) in 2001. I quickly realized I wanted to play the outfield."

How hard did you throw?

Ross: "On my first pitch, I felt like it was 95 and I looked up, it said 79. I think I got it up to 84."

Gload: "When I was warming up, I thought I might be in the 80s. I got out there and had to peek. It said 78. I knew my pitching career was over."

Miles: "I saw 73. The guys in the bullpen told me to try to throw slower than what hitters are used to, and that wasn’t very hard for me. I tried to throw a couple max effort. I got one to 79, and I might have had a little more in the tank. I didn’t want to throw it so hard to where I might hit somebody."

Janish: "I was 88-92. At Rice, I was about 94."

Loretta: "They turned it off (inside the stadium), but someone who saw it on TV said 78 or something like that. I was over the speed limit."

How did you feel the next day?

'I got one to 79, and I might have had a little more in the tank,' Aaron Miles says.
‘I got one to 79, and I might have had a little more in the tank,’ Aaron Miles says.

Ross: "My whole left side of my back, my legs and my buttocks were sore. I felt it for the next couple of days."

Janish: "Sore for a week."

Gload: "My body hurt for four days."

How do you assess your performance?

Loretta: "The first pitch I threw hit Matt Holliday in the foot. I’m thinking, here we go. But it was all right after that. You get adrenaline. It’s exciting, kind of a fun thing but the circumstances aren’t too good when you get the chance."

Ross: "My claim to fame is I went through the heart of the lineup of the (then) defending World Champions and I mowed right through them. I had as much fun as you can have when you’re losing by 12 runs. When I ran out to the mound, everything was like I was making my major league debut. My heart was racing. Everything was going a million miles an hour. Then all of a sudden, I hear, "Now batting Ryan Howard." I think no way is he my first batter. Please don’t hit it right back at me. I got ahead 0-2 when he fouled a couple of pitches off. I threw him a curveball and he fouled it. That was the only curveball I threw. One of my closest friends is Jayson Werth and I wanted to strike him out so bad. He got the only hit off me. He rolled over to the shortstop and beat it out. A cheap hit."

Swisher: "Zero point zero zero, baby."

What do you remember about the experience?

Ross: "I was 3 for 3 when I went in to pitch. After the inning, we had another at-bat. I was the second guy hitting and when I got up to the plate, I still was nervous from pitching. I took three straight pitches for strikes, came into the dugout and someone said, ‘Hey, you hit like a pitcher.’"

Janish: "I focus on the (two) strikeouts, not the (nine) hits."

Miles:: "I’ve got three innings. I know what it’s like to give up a homer. I know what it’s like to go 1-2-3. If the situation comes up again, I will be the guy to say yes, I’ll do it."

How they fared

Gload: One outing. One inning, no runs. Two walks, no hits, no strikeouts.

Janish: Two outings. Two innings, 11 earned runs allowed. Nine hits, two walks, three strikeouts.

Loretta: Two outings. One and ome-third innings, no runs. One hit, one walk, one hit batter, two strikeouts.

Miles: Three outings. Three innings, two runs allowed, one home run allowed. No strikeouts, no walks, one hit batter.

Ross: One outing. One inning, no runs. One hit, no walks, no strikeouts.

Swisher: One outing. One inning, no runs. One hit, one walk, one strikeout.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

Like pitchers who fancy themselves as hitters, sometimes position players think they can pitch. Sometimes they even get to take the mound. Who cares if their team is losing big and they’re out there only so their manager can save his bullpen?

The experience remains memorable for six players who talked to the Sporting News about pitching in a big-league game.

How did you get the chance?

'I'd always wanted to pitch in the big leagues,' Cody Ross says.
‘I’d always wanted to pitch in the big leagues,’ Cody Ross says.

Marlins outfielder Cody Ross: "I’d always wanted to pitch in the big leagues, just to get in an inning in. I started lobbying for it in 2006, when Joe Girardi was here. I told him if you ever need someone to come in and eat up an inning, I’ll be the guy. I told Fredi (Gonzalez) the same thing."

Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher: "I was standing there. They said, ‘Have you ever pitched?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I didn’t tell them it was in high school."

Former Dodgers infielder Mark Loretta: "We had used a lot of pitchers and one of our setup guys was up and getting loose. (Third-base coach) Larry Bowa and I looked at each other and said, hopefully he doesn’t have to come into a game like this. I said, ‘I’ll go out there if I have do.’ Larry goes, ‘Are you serious?’ Then he goes, ‘Joe (Torre), Loretta will go.’ So Albert Pujols walked and Joe said, ‘Let’s go.’"

Reds infielder Aaron Miles: "Tony La Russa initially asked So Taguchi if he wanted to pitch, as a courtesy to the veteran guy who might want the experience. So didn’t want to. The only other guy was me. Tony looked over at me, there was no asking. You’re going down to the bullpen to get warmed up. You’re pitching the eighth."

Reds shortstop Paul Janish: "I’m from Houston and I went to Rice. Dusty (Baker) is very good buddies with Ralph Garr, who is a scout in Houston who had seen me pitch a bunch in college. He brought that up in the clubhouse when we were in Houston, and Dusty and I talked about it. Not long after that, we had Milwaukee in town and our bullpen had been pushed. He asked me and I said OK."

What were you thinking?

Ross: "You don’t want to walk anyone. Your team has been out there all day, you’re losing and this was a day game in Florida."

'The pitcher's mound is a lot closer than right field,' Nick Swisher says.
‘The pitcher’s mound is a lot closer than right field,’ Nick Swisher says.

Swisher: "You’re scared somebody’s going to hit a line drive back at you. The pitcher’s mound is a lot closer than right field."

Loretta: "We didn’t take batting practice so literally the first ball I threw that day was my first warm-up pitch. I wanted to be careful. I wasn’t about to start breaking off curves. I was just hoping I wouldn’t get hit in the face by a line drive and I would not walk the whole world."

When was the last time you had pitched?

Phillies first baseman Ross Gload (who was with the Marlins): "The 1994 Long Island championship game. My big league pitching debut (one inning, no runs) was better than my high school pitching career ended. We lost."

Janish: "In college, about six years before."

Ross: "When I was drafted in ’99, a lot of teams wanted me to pitch. They were comparing me to a Mike Hampton type. I pitched in instructional league in 2000 and a little with the Tigers (system) in 2001. I quickly realized I wanted to play the outfield."

How hard did you throw?

Ross: "On my first pitch, I felt like it was 95 and I looked up, it said 79. I think I got it up to 84."

Gload: "When I was warming up, I thought I might be in the 80s. I got out there and had to peek. It said 78. I knew my pitching career was over."

Miles: "I saw 73. The guys in the bullpen told me to try to throw slower than what hitters are used to, and that wasn’t very hard for me. I tried to throw a couple max effort. I got one to 79, and I might have had a little more in the tank. I didn’t want to throw it so hard to where I might hit somebody."

Janish: "I was 88-92. At Rice, I was about 94."

Loretta: "They turned it off (inside the stadium), but someone who saw it on TV said 78 or something like that. I was over the speed limit."

How did you feel the next day?

'I got one to 79, and I might have had a little more in the tank,' Aaron Miles says.
‘I got one to 79, and I might have had a little more in the tank,’ Aaron Miles says.

Ross: "My whole left side of my back, my legs and my buttocks were sore. I felt it for the next couple of days."

Janish: "Sore for a week."

Gload: "My body hurt for four days."

How do you assess your performance?

Loretta: "The first pitch I threw hit Matt Holliday in the foot. I’m thinking, here we go. But it was all right after that. You get adrenaline. It’s exciting, kind of a fun thing but the circumstances aren’t too good when you get the chance."

Ross: "My claim to fame is I went through the heart of the lineup of the (then) defending World Champions and I mowed right through them. I had as much fun as you can have when you’re losing by 12 runs. When I ran out to the mound, everything was like I was making my major league debut. My heart was racing. Everything was going a million miles an hour. Then all of a sudden, I hear, "Now batting Ryan Howard." I think no way is he my first batter. Please don’t hit it right back at me. I got ahead 0-2 when he fouled a couple of pitches off. I threw him a curveball and he fouled it. That was the only curveball I threw. One of my closest friends is Jayson Werth and I wanted to strike him out so bad. He got the only hit off me. He rolled over to the shortstop and beat it out. A cheap hit."

Swisher: "Zero point zero zero, baby."

What do you remember about the experience?

Ross: "I was 3 for 3 when I went in to pitch. After the inning, we had another at-bat. I was the second guy hitting and when I got up to the plate, I still was nervous from pitching. I took three straight pitches for strikes, came into the dugout and someone said, ‘Hey, you hit like a pitcher.’"

Janish: "I focus on the (two) strikeouts, not the (nine) hits."

Miles:: "I’ve got three innings. I know what it’s like to give up a homer. I know what it’s like to go 1-2-3. If the situation comes up again, I will be the guy to say yes, I’ll do it."

How they fared

Gload: One outing. One inning, no runs. Two walks, no hits, no strikeouts.

Janish: Two outings. Two innings, 11 earned runs allowed. Nine hits, two walks, three strikeouts.

Loretta: Two outings. One and ome-third innings, no runs. One hit, one walk, one hit batter, two strikeouts.

Miles: Three outings. Three innings, two runs allowed, one home run allowed. No strikeouts, no walks, one hit batter.

Ross: One outing. One inning, no runs. One hit, no walks, no strikeouts.

Swisher: One outing. One inning, no runs. One hit, one walk, one strikeout.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*