The Oakland A’s bullpen worked overtime Tuesday night, after starting pitcher Chris Bassitt was seriously injured and had to leave early.
It was difficult to take the rest of the baseball game seriously after watching one of the players get carted away to the hospital, and there wasn’t much to see anyway as the Chicago White Sox cruised to a 9-0 victory. But that blowout margin did have one interesting result.
In the bottom of the 8th inning, with the home team leading comfortably and likely coming up for the last time that night, the A’s gave their pitching staff a break and called on a position player instead. Designated hitter Mitch Moreland took the mound!
This wasn’t Moreland’s first rodeo as a pitcher. He saw some action as a reliever in college at Mississippi State, appearing in 25 games over three seasons, and he even recorded a couple saves to go with a rate of 12.9 Ks per 9 innings. In the minors he chipped in a couple innings in Low-A ball the year after he was drafted, and in the majors he’d pitched twice before — a scoreless inning for the Rangers in 2014, and another scoreless frame for the Red Sox in 2017.
Now he was taking the mound for the third time in his MLB career, and once again it went well. Watch the whole thing below!
This was not just a position player up there tossing slop, like Brock Holt and his 32 mph eephus. Moreland looked like a real pitcher.
His velocity was within range of MLB-caliber, averaging 87.1 mph and topping out at 88.7; for context, Yusmeiro Petit averages 87.6 with his fastball this year, and Sergio Romo is at 85.4 on his seldom-used heater. Moreland showed three different offerings with a fastball, breaking ball, and changeup, and he controlled and commanded it all well. And all from the left side!
“Everybody is slightly impressed here, I’ve gotta be honest. I’m pretty impressed,” said broadcaster Glen Kuiper.
First up, Moreland faced Jake Lamb and got ahead 1-2 by placing his fastball in the zone. He tried to get a chase with a breaking ball, but Lamb did a good job to lay off. The 2-2 fastball induced a routine flyout to center field.
Give Mitch Moreland the Cy Young -- 88 mph cheddar pic.twitter.com/S0kPtiSOMJ— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 18, 2021
Next was Zack Collins, and the first pitch missed outside at 88.2 mph. “Now he’s just showing off,” joked Kuiper of the relatively powerful velocity. Moreland found the zone a couple times to push the count to 2-2, then challenged Collins down the middle with 87.0 mph and earned the foul-tip for a swinging Strike 3.
Moreland is known as Mitchy Two Bags for his skills as a Professional Hitter, but that moniker got an update.
“Old Mitchy Three Strikes,” exclaimed broadcaster Dallas Braden.
Mitchy three strikes gets the K pic.twitter.com/HdHm6N2jV0— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 18, 2021
With two outs on the board, Danny Mendick came to bat and swung at the first pitch. His popup to shallow right field appeared playable, but it found turf for a bloop single.
That brought up Cesar Hernandez. Moreland got ahead 0-2 and then unleashed a changeup, at 73.1 mph and located well, though Hernandez barely managed to foul it off. A couple pitches later, he left a breaking ball up but Hernandez got under it, skying out to center.
“A very impressive inning by the crafty left-hander, his name is Mitch Moreland and I think he’s got a future in this game,” said Kuiper, with a laugh from Braden.
Mitch Moreland brought some levity to this game pic.twitter.com/SeR9GxYV8m— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 18, 2021
Nothing could change what a bummer of a night this was. But watching a Gold Glove first baseman pitch a legit scoreless inning was at least one thing to smile about. The DH spot is meant to replace the pitcher in the offensive lineup, but in this case Moreland covered both jobs.
- Moreland, MLB career (3 games): 3 ip, 0 runs, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 3 hits
This was the 16th time that the Oakland A’s have called on a position player to pitch, and the 15th different player to do it. Here’s the full list (there are several more from the Philly and KC days, though):
- Jeff Newman 9/14/77
- Wayne Gross 5/18/83
- Garry Hancock 6/25/84
- Mark Wagner 8/20/84
- Vance Law 10/2/91
- Kevin Seitzer 5/2/93
- Frank Menechino 7/18/00
- Ike Davis 4/21/15
- Ike Davis (again) 8/16/15
- Josh Phegley 5/8/16
- Tyler Ladendorf 6/3/16
- Jake Smolinski 6/13/18
- Kendrys Morales 4/20/19
- Nick Martini 7/22/19
- Ka’ai Tom 4/4/21
- Mitch Moreland 8/17/21