Catcher Chris Gimenez has pitched in six blowout losses for the Twins this season, amassing a 7.20 ERA but delighting curious fans every time he shows up on the mound.
Gimenez, though, hasn't pitched in the type of pressure situation that Twin Cities native Max Murphy — a Cooper graduate — faced Saturday as a member of the Twins' Class AA affiliate in Chattanooga.
Murphy, a 24-year-old righthanded outfielder, found himself pitching in the top of the 21st inning of a 1-1 game against Birmingham. And that was after teammate Alex Perez — an infielder — had thrown two scoreless innings after the Lookouts ran out of pitchers.
It turns out fans aren't the only ones who get excited when position players pitch.
"I mean, pretty much everyone was ready to leave and then they started putting position players in to pitch," Murphy recalled in a phone interview Tuesday. "We got a second wind. It got everyone fired up to see players doing something they aren't used to doing."
Murphy, who hadn't pitched since he was a senior at Cooper in 2011, had a quick meeting with his catcher about his repertoire.
"I said, 'Fastballs. That's all I've got,' " Murphy said.
He walked the first batter on four pitches, but he got two quick outs on a sacrifice bunt and a groundout before striking out the final hitter for the third out. Murphy estimated that his fastball reached the upper 80s.
"I was just throwing the ball," he said. "Sometimes it cut a little, and sometimes it was straight."
In the bottom of the 21st, the Lookouts made two quick outs but then took four straight walks — one of them by Murphy — to push across the winning run and finally end the 5-hour, 29-minute game in strange-but-true fashion.
The game would have been over in about two hours if Chattanooga hadn't tied the score in the bottom of the ninth.
"Everyone was relieved the game was over," Murphy said. "There wasn't a walk-off celebration at all."
Still, he relished the chance to get on the mound and pick up the win. He had an inkling his name might be called after talking to Chattanooga manager Jake Mauer as the game wore on.
"It was definitely fun," Murphy said. "It's something I've always been wanting to do. Other guys have had a turn, but I finally got to do it."
More important in the big picture, Murphy had three hits (in eight at-bats) in Saturday's game, then followed that with two hits both Sunday and Monday. That raised his average to .278 in 21 games with Chattanooga after a midyear promotion from Class A Fort Myers, where he hit .307 with a .390 on-base percentage. That's a big improvement over 2016, when he hit just .236 across three levels.
"The progress has been kind of slow until now," said Murphy, who played in college at Bradley and was a ninth-round pick of the Twins in 2014. "I've been working through some stuff. This year has been really good for me. I'm figuring stuff out. Hopefully, I continue to do well."
Who knows? He could have the Gimenez role someday with the Twins.
"I mean, probably not," Murphy said with a laugh. "But if they ever asked me to, if the situation calls for it, I'm in."