Position players are being used as mop-up pitchers more frequently than ever before in baseball history, more than 50 times this season already. A brief look at how AL Central teams, owners five of the six worst bullpen ERAs in the league, are adopting the strategy:
Indians: Manager Terry Francona has used a position player only once, and Twins fans may remember it. On June 16, after using six relievers, Francona asked outfielder Brandon Guyer to pitch the ninth inning of Minnesota’s 9-3 victory. He retired Taylor Motter, Ryan LaMarre and Max Kepler in order on just eight pitches.
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Royals: Drew Butera is a catcher who knows his way around the mound, with five career appearances for three different teams before Ned Yost turned to him in July to get the final out of a lopsided loss against Boston. It took a while: Butera gave up two singles, three walks and two runs before retiring Jackie Bradley Jr. on a liner.
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Tigers: Ron Gardenhire hated the idea during his days with the Twins, trying it only three times in 13 seasons, and he hasn’t changed in Detroit. The Tigers are one of three AL teams (along with New York and Boston) not to use a position player, perhaps because Andrew Romine — and his four career outings — is now in Seattle.
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White Sox: Infielder Matt Davidson, a pitcher in high school, has made three one-inning appearances and has yet to allow a run. He even struck out Giancarlo Stanton. But Davidson’s real distinction is historic: Only he and Babe Ruth have ever pitched three times and hit 15 home runs in the same season.