Gimenez pitches in to relieve taxed Tribe 'pen

July 3rd, 2016

TORONTO -- Terry Francona wasn't just managing Sunday's game against the Blue Jays. As Toronto began to spread things open and turn the afternoon tilt into a full-fledged blowout, he was forced to think ahead to the next game or two for the Indians.

So when Chris Gimenez offered to pitch during the 17-1 loss to the Blue Jays, Francona took him up on it, trusting that the backup catcher would be smart enough to overcome the manager's worries about getting a position player injured. The effects of Friday's 19-inning game lingered through Saturday and bled into Sunday, and Cleveland just wanted to escape in one piece after an otherwise successful 8-2 road trip.

"Everybody was pretty much in survival mode," Gimenez said.

A three-day chain reaction led to the catcher taking the hill for the second time in his career.

First, the draining, six-plus-hour marathon on Friday had the Tribe's pitching staff in shambles. Trevor Bauer, who was supposed to start on Saturday, worked five innings to close out that 19-inning victory. Reliever Zach McAllister was then named the starter for an all-hands-on-deck approach to Saturday. He worked one inning in a bullpen game that featured a one-day stay in the big leagues for Minor League lefty Shawn Morimando.

Complicating matters further was the fact that Corey Kluber -- typically reliable when it comes to chewing up innings -- lasted only 3 1/3 innings in Sunday's series finale. That put added strain on the Tribe's fatigued relief corps, leading to Gimenez informing Francona that he was willing to pitch in.

Gimenez worked the last two innings, allowing four runs, but the appearance allowed Francona to stay away from five of his eight relievers.

"What Chris did today, that hopefully saves us for these next seven games," Indians closer Cody Allen said. "We've got to grind through seven to get through the [All-Star] break. So, what that can do for us is that can set us up to have a good series against Detroit, and hopefully after a couple days, you've got everybody back in line, and then you've got a fresh pen.

"That 19-inning game, I'd say it took a little bit of a toll on us the last couple days."

Gimenez previously pitched one shutout inning for the Rangers on July 10, 2014, but he said he made the mistake of throwing too hard in that appearance. This time, the catcher averaged 67.5 mph on what registered as a knuckleball via PITCHf/x. Gimenez laughed at that classification, joking that it was actually a "super changeup," compared to his 82-mph fastball.

In the seventh inning, Gimenez set down Junior Lake, Darwin Barney and Ezequiel Carrera in order. Toronto then struck for four runs off him in the eighth, when Justin Smoak capped off the scoring with a two-run home run to right field.

"Gimenez did a good job of just not getting hurt," Francona said. "The worst thing, what makes a hard day worse, is messing your bullpen up for the next day."

Gimenez became the first Indians position player to pitch at least two innings since Willie Smith did it twice in 1968 (June 1 and 24), and the first position player to take the mound at all for Cleveland since Ryan Raburn and David Murphy both worked against the Cubs on June 17 last year.

During Friday's marathon, the Blue Jays used infielders Ryan Goins and Barney as pitchers.

"You never like to see that," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "But sometimes there's a game where you're forced to do that. The 19-inning game really did it to both teams."

Francona agreed.

"We knew that game, there's repercussions," Francona said. "That's why we wanted to win so bad. You expend that much on your ballclub, coming away with a win was important for us. The next thing is to protect your bullpen, and we tried to do that as best we can."