Chris Gimenez played against the team that drafted him on Saturday, which isn’t unusual in professional sports. Happens all the time.
Cleveland didn’t jettison Gimenez just once. That organization got rid of him three times, meaning the Indians also acquired him three times before dumping him.
That’s almost as weird as Gimenez making five emergency appearances as a pitcher for the Twins this season.
“You’re either doing something really right or really wrong,” Gimenez said of his three different stints with one team.
His strange limbo status sums up Gimenez’s entire professional career. He’s been good enough to play for five organizations but expendable enough as a backup catcher to never feel completely settled.
Ask him to trace his nomadic career and he rattles off cities — including minor league outposts — as if he’s reciting the alphabet. He figures he has lived in 15 or so different places. He describes his career thusly: “A blessing but at the same time it’s been a cluster.”
In other words, screwy.
He landed in Minnesota largely because of two men who had a hand in playing pingpong with his contractual rights. The Twins’ new baseball bosses — Derek Falvey and Thad Levine — were executives with Cleveland and Texas when Gimenez played for those organizations. Texas traded him to Cleveland in 2014 and again in 2016.
Those three shared a laugh when the Twins signed Gimenez this offseason. Levine promised him two things: He would get a chance to play, and “most likely we’ll trade you and then try and reacquire you at some point later in the season.”
He was joking. Maybe.
His bosses probably didn’t mention anything to him about pitching, which has become a running joke that is both funny and sad. The Twins bullpen has failed so spectacularly that Gimenez has pitched five innings out of dire necessity.
Sports Illustrated recently noted that Gimenez became the sixth position player since 1969 to make three pitching appearances in a season.
“I’m full of history around here,” he joked.
Gimenez remembers pitching only three innings in high school. He had zero appearances in the minors. His approach is rather simple.
“I just try to throw it as slow as possible,” he said.
A few times he has glanced at the scoreboard after a pitch to see what it registered on the stadium radar gun. Knuckleball flashed for pitch type.
“I’m like, ‘Oh boy,’ ” he said.
Yeah, that wasn’t a knuckleball. That was his “fastball.”
Cleveland drafted him in the 19th round in 2004 and then gathered most of that draft class for a reality check. Realistically, only a few of them will make it to the big leagues, team officials told the group.
“Everybody was looking around,” Gimenez recalled. “I was like, ‘I’m making it. I don’t know about you guys.’ ”
He made good on that vow, but not without stops and starts, setbacks, and a bunch of change of address notifications.
Last season was particularly eventful, which included a nasty staph infection that necessitated two surgeries on his left ankle, another trade and, oh yeah, him narrowly avoiding being decapitated in a freak accident.
That incident happened back home in Reno, Nev., a few weeks before spring training. A snowstorm had hit the area and Gimenez was in his truck at a red light on an off-ramp. A snowplow roared past and he heard a loud crash.
Gimenez ducked as glass flew and his pickup truck shook. The plow blade had dislodged a 36-pound metal road grate and hurled it 140 feet, a direct hit on Gimenez’s truck.
The grate crushed the frame and smashed his back window. His truck has a 6-inch lift, which he figures saved him.
“If I had a normal truck it would have gone right through the cab,” he said. “Or if I would have stopped 5 feet further back from the car in front of me, it would have gone through my driver’s side window. You look back and think somebody had to be looking out for me.”
He kept the grate.
“I thought maybe I’ll make a trophy out of it,” he said.
Puts pitching in a blowout loss in perspective.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org