Mitch Maier, Pitch Trier

Mitch Maier is no belly itcher, but when someone hasn’t been on a mound since Little League, it’s hard to call him a pitcher just because he toed the rubber in a big-league game. But that’s what the 29-year-old outfielder did earlier this week, throwing a garbage-time inning — a scoreless one in Fenway Park, no less — one night after a 14-inning marathon left the Royals’ bullpen shorthanded. Regardless of how you label him, Maier — with his 81-mph fastball — did himself proud. He gave up a double to David Ortiz but retired Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford and Jason Varitek. The next day he recounted the experience.

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Maier, on the last time he pitched: “I think it was when I was about 10 or 12 years old. It was in Little League, in Novi, Michigan. I played a little shortstop and a little pitcher then, but most of my life I’ve been a catcher. That’s what I enjoyed the most — catching — so I never really ventured out to the mound.”

On how he ended up on a big-league mound: “We were really short on pitchers, and I’m a reserve here on the bench, so in a game like that you’d rather throw me out there than tear up the bullpen for the rest of the series. Basically, I was saving pitch counts.

“Ned [Yost] asked me earlier this year, in Texas, in a similar type of game. I ended up not getting in, but I did warm up. Yesterday he told me to head down to the bullpen and that he’d let me know if he needed me.”

On warming up in the bullpen: “The fans were telling me how horrible I was and how I was going to get lit up. I was thinking, ‘You’re probably right,’ so it wasn’t really bothering me too much. I was trying to have fun with it and just concentrate on throwing strikes.”

On coming in from the pen: “I don’t know if I’ve ever felt [nerves] like that. I’m running in with ‘Sweet Caroline’ playing and I’m at Fenway Park. But then we had the fan out on the field, which distracted me a little bit. I left the bullpen and the guy ran right next to me. He got tackled, literally five feet away. Maybe that was a good thing, a good distraction.”

On what he felt like on the mound: “I didn’t feel like a pitcher, that’s for sure. And when I watched the film, I didn’t look like a pitcher, either. I was bad. You’re so used to watching actual big-league, professional, pitchers pitch, and I was out there with no follow through, not using my legs — all of that stuff. I was just out there throwing it.”

On the first batter he faced: “The first pitch I threw was a fastball, but I [missed badly] because I was really nervous. Pedroia stood in and I was like, ‘Now I have to throw a strike.’ When I was in the bullpen, with no batter, it was different.”

“I knew Pedroia needed a home run [for the cycle] and I expected him to try to hit a home run. It’s what I would have done. He gave the ball a good ride, but fortunately it stayed in. When he hit it, I thought it was a home, for sure.”

On retiring three of the four batters he faced: “I was pretty surprised, but they mostly got themselves out. As a big-league player, you don’t face guys throwing 75 mph fastballs. The changeups aren’t even 75. I threw all fastballs except for three or four sliders. The hardest pitch I threw was 81. It was the last pitch I threw, to Varitek.”

On position players pitching: “I [hit against] position players in the minor leagues and when that happens you’re worried. You don’t want to strike out; you don’t know what the guy has, it’s all over the place. It’s not exactly a great feeling as hitter. You don’t know if he’s going to throw it behind your back, or where it’s going to go. There are all kinds of questions out there and the last thing you want to do is embarrass yourself.”

On post-game reaction: “I’ve gotten a lot of text messages from friends. I’ve got buddies from high school telling me that they’d have taken me deep. I’ve had guys on the team saying, ‘That’s all you have?’

“There’s been a lot of talk about it. Now we have all of the position players talking about how they would pitch if they got the opportunity. I’ve kind of opened up a whole new can of worms.”




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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA


9 Responses to “Mitch Maier, Pitch Trier”

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  1. Andrew says:

    That was an amusing read. I feel like I know Mitch Maier much better now!

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  2. rickpo says:

    Now that they’ve got a book on him, they’ll light him up next time.

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  3. Matty says:

    One of the most likable guys on the Royals. Hope he can stick around the majors for a long time, even if it’s just as a 4th outfielder.

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  4. MikeS says:

    See now, if my hardest pitch was my last one, I’d be comparing myself to Verlander and ignoring the 20 mph difference.

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  5. Jamie says:

    Maier sells himself short. He did look like a real pitcher out there: Tim Wakefield, if Tim Wakefield only threw fastballs.

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  6. Matt says:

    Michael Cuddyer brought the real heat against the Rangers all the way up to 88.4 mph

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