Imagine, if you will, a catcher-pitcher hybrid who can also play the infield and outfield, who has more multihomer games this season than Michael Trout and who has taken Chris Sale deep. Can we agree that would be a pretty unusual player?Well, ladies and gentlemen, the Minnesota Twins, a surprise
Imagine, if you will, a catcher-pitcher hybrid who can also play the infield and outfield, who has more multihomer games this season than Michael Trout and who has taken Chris Sale deep. Can we agree that would be a pretty unusual player?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the Minnesota Twins, a surprise contender in 2017, have this very player. His name is Chris Gimenez, and he might be having the strangest individual season in the Majors.
"I think that's an understatement," he says with a laugh.
Gimenez, the Twins' 34-year-old backup to Jason Castro behind the dish, has caught 25 games, as advertised. But the Twins have had to count on him in mop-up duty on the mound not once, not twice but six times already in the first half.
How rare is this? Rare! Like, did-not-happen-at-all-in-the-20th-century-rare.
Per the research presented by Ryan M. Spaeder on Twitter (@theaceofspaeder), Gimenez is the first player to log at least six games at pitcher and catcher in a single season in the modern era. The feat has been accomplished just six times previously, and get a load of this list:
Cal McVey, 1876 and '77, Chicago White Stockings
Amos Booth, 1877, Cincinnati Reds
Billy Taylor, 1883, Pittsburgh Alleghanys
Mike Dorgan, 1884, New York Gothams
Yank Robinson, 1884, Baltimore Monumentals
"Just look at some of those team names," Gimenez says.
You might have guessed this, but Gimenez's double-duty isn't exactly by design. No manager wants to be put in that awful position of having to put a position player on the hill with the game out of hand, let alone to have to do it a half-dozen times with the same guy. But Gimenez told Paul Molitor early this year that he's up for anything, that, having accumulated four innings of work over three appearances in his eight prior big league seasons, he's learned how to handle the assignment without blowing out his arm. And so, here we are. But the thing that makes absolutely no sense is that despite having been put in this ugly spot with Gimenez so frequently, the Twins have a winning record and a pulse in the American League Central race.
"We can't win at home [16-25], and we either win by a couple or lose by like nine," Gimenez says. "That's been the perfect storm to allow me to have to pitch so many times. … I don't claim to be a pitcher, but I know I can do it without getting hurt and not put somebody in a position where they're going to get sent down or released or anything bad happen to our team."
Gimenez made his first career pitching appearance in 2014, while with the Rangers. His average fastball velocity in that outing (a 1-2-3 ninth against the Angels) was 84.8 mph.
"I tried to actually be a pitcher," he says now. "I hit 87 a couple times, and I felt like I needed Tommy John and shoulder surgery for the next week."
Now, he's showing restraint, lobbing it in there at an average speed of 70.6 mph -- as low as 61 and as high as 85. He's not happy about his 7.20 ERA in five innings, but he was heartened to hear his 5.74 Fielding Independent Pitching mark indicates he's been victimized by some bad luck.
"I'm probably close to [having enough innings to qualify for] the leaderboards," Gimenez joked. "You have to make light of the situation. It's just amazing that it's happened six times and we're [still vying for the Central]."
Another mildly amazing note on Gimenez: He's just the 16th player in the modern era -- and the first since Don Kelly in 2011 -- to log at least one game played at catcher, pitcher, first base, third base and left field in the same season. His .743 OPS entering ply Friday -- beefed up by a two-homer game earlier this month and Monday's solo shot off Sale -- is second only to Scott Sheldon (.804 in 2000) among players on that unusual list.
There's been a lot of talk lately about two-way players because of some of the unusual talents in the latest MLB Draft and the Padres' experiment with catcher Christian Bethancourt, who opened the season in a relief role but was outrighted to Triple-A after posting a 14.73 ERA in four appearances.
Turns out, the Twins lucked -- or, rather, unlucked -- into a pitching/catching amalgam all their own.
"I'm working on a knuckleball," Gimenez says. "Right now, all I have is a fastball, so I need a putaway pitch."
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.