Back on April 3rd, I witnessed quite the odd series of events in the tenth inning of a Braves/Pirates matchup, ultimately resulting in Braves reliever Chris Resop coming into pitch, then moving to leftfield, then returning to pitch. Based on the looks I saw develop on the faces of the players involved, I was not the only one a tad confused as to exactly what was happening.
Mike Hampton had been scheduled to make his first start since 2005 but, as expected, this did not happen. A decision was made just prior to the game to scratch Hampton from the start and it was soon learned he would be placed on the disabled list. Since the umpires were already out on the field when the decision was made, the start of the game had to be delayed to allow replacement starter Jeff Bennett time to warm-up. Bobby Cox, after using seven pitchers in this seesaw game, and fulfilling his promise to give Peter Moylan the day off, was left with just Resop and Royce Ring as extra innings rolled around. The goal was for Resop to go the distance unless a crucial lefty-lefty matchup presented itself.
Resop began the frame by walking speedster Nyjer Morgan. Luis Rivas then sacrificed Morgan to second and Jason Bay walked; Morgan advanced to third on a passed ball. With runners on and lefty Adam LaRoche coming up, Cox decided to make his move. Matt Diaz came in from leftfield, Chris Resop went to leftfield, and Royce Ring came into pitch. Ring promptly struck LaRoche out, serving his LOOGY purpose. Ring came out, Resop came back into pitch, and Gregor Blanco replaced Resop in leftfield. As fate would have it, Resop gave up what would turn out to be the game-winning single to Xavier Nady as soon as he came back in. This proved to be the first time in eighteen years that an NL player both pitched and played the field in the same inning.
In that instance, the first game of a doubleheader between the Cubs and Mets, Les Lancaster accomplished the same feat. The day prior, June 12th, the Cubs got waxed 19-8, a game that saw the bullpen get used so heavily that even Doug Dascenzo, an outfielder, pitch. So we have pitchers playing the outfield and outfielders pitching in this article. In the 6th inning of the June 13th game, Cubs starter Jeff Pico had two outs, with one on, and an 8-5 lead when Les Lancaster came into relieve him. Lancaster made quick work of Mark Carreon to end the inning.
When Les trotted out to the mound for the seventh inning, however, things did not go as he planned. He gave up four singles while retiring just one batter; with the lead now just 8-6, and lefties coming up, Lancaster was replaced by Paul Assenmacher. Les moved to leftfield, though, so he could come back into the game. Assenmacher walked a batter and gave up two singles, handing the lead to the Mets. Lancaster came back into pitch and took the brunt of the Mets offense, lasting until the ninth inning. In two separate pitching stints that game, Lancaster’s line: 2.2 IP, 8 H, 9 ER, BB, K. His ERA ballooned from 3.79 to 5.02.
Another incredibly interesting story along similar lines took place on July 22, 1986, again in a game involving the Mets. The Mets roster was in shambles following a usage of relievers and the ejections of Ray Knight and Kevin Mitchell after a brawl. In the tenth inning, Gary Carter replaced Knight at third base while Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell alternated between pitching and playing the outfield. Unlike the Resop, Lancaster, and Assenmacher examples, this one actually paid off as Orosco and McDowell combined to give up four hits and no runs in four innings of relief work. Orosco even caught a fly ball as Tony Perez hit a liner right into his glove in rightfield.
These are just three examples of why baseball will forever be the most interesting and strategic sport. And, to tie everything together, Roger McDowell is currently the pitching coach for the Braves. I can only guess he experienced a wicked case of deja vu on April 3rd, thinking back to his similar experience over twenty years ago.