First baseman Michael Cuddyer of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Texas Rangers in the bottom of the eighth inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. The Texas Rangers beat the Minnesota Twins 20-6. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The Minnesota Twins lost to the Texas Rangers 20-6 on Monday night; the Rangers scored at least three runs in each of the first five innings (becoming only the third team since 1900 to do so). The Twins trailed 18-1 at that point and when it got to 20-5 after eight, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire called on outfielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer to pitch.
Cuddyer managed to throw a scoreless inning, but no thanks to his fielders, who let an easy popup to short center field drop in between them. That went for a single, one of two hits he gave up; he also walked one, but threw nine strikes in 16 pitches and likely "retires" from his pitching career with a 0.00 ERA.
This used to be a fairly rare thing to do; it would happen five or six times in any one season. But with overworked bullpens these days, it's happened more often in 2011. Thanks to baseball-reference.com, we learn that 18 men considered "non-pitchers" have taken the mound this season. They define that as "a player [having] five times as many non-pitching games as games in which they pitched", which they note puts Babe Ruth on the list, but most of these men are position players who took one for the team.
Other recent non-pitchers have had a bit more fun with their mound stints. In 2002, the Diamondbacks' Mark Grace took the hill with his team down 18-1 and began doing impressions of his teammate Mike Fetters while warming up; he then gave up a home run to the Dodgers' David Ross with what was termed "a 67-MPH fastball".
Home runs were the purview of Jose Canseco. But on May 29, 1993, just three days after a ball had bounced off his head for a home run at Fenway Park, Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy put Canseco in to pitch in the eighth inning of a blowout. Six weeks later, Canseco had to have Tommy John surgery and his hitting was never quite the same.
On July 4, 1977, the Cubs were losing the first game of a doubleheader 14-3 to the Expos at Wrigley Field on a beastly hot day. Wanting to save his bullpen for the second game, manager Herman Franks sent first baseman/outfielder Larry Biittner in to pitch, prompting WGN-TV graphics humorists to identify him as "LARRY BIITTNER: PIITCHING". Biittner got warned by home plate umpire Terry Tata for throwing at Del Unser's head, even though the pitch was a floater that looped away from the hitter; he also gave up home runs to Andre Dawson, Larry Parrish and Ellis Valentine, but got the last laugh by striking out three Expos.
One of the more unusual non-pitcher mound appearances was made by Cubs outfielder Doug Dascenzo, who may not have been as tall as his listed 5-foot-7 height. The mound gave him some presence and focus that he shows off here:
Dascenzo might have considered a career as a pitcher. Cubs managers Don Zimmer and Jim Essian used him four times as a mopup hurler in 1990 and 1991 (the Cubs lost all four games, by a combined score of 59-23); he threw five innings, giving up three hits, two walks and "retiring" as a pitcher with a 0.00 ERA; there are only four other men in MLB history who have thrown in that many games with that many innings without allowing an earned run; all the others were considered "real" pitchers. Maybe Dascenzo should have taken up pitching.
Maybe it would work for current managers, too. Even with seven-man bullpens, you never know when you're going to need another pitcher.