Catcher turned third baseman turned knuckleballer ... in one day

June 28th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- Prior to Monday’s series opener against the Twins, utility man Ernie Clement threw on Austin Hedges’ catching gear to help warm up some hurlers. A few hours later, he was toeing the rubber in the ninth inning.

Clement knew he’d be the emergency catcher because Hedges was experiencing concussion symptoms and had no shot of coming into the game. But Clement certainly wasn’t expecting to break out his knuckleball until the later innings of Cleveland’s 11-1 loss to Minnesota.

“I knew I was going to go in at third to give Josey [José Ramírez] a breather,” Clement said. “Pretty much after that they were like 'Owen [Miller’s] probably going to go in and play third and you're going to pick us up on the mound.'”

Clement threw 23 pitches: 18 fastballs and five knuckleballs, according to Statcast. His velocity ranged from as high as 73.1 mph to as low as 50.2 mph. He gave up two earned runs on four hits (no walks or strikeouts) in his one inning of work. When he got on his phone after the game, Clement saw that the popular pitching Twitter account, Pitching Ninja, posted a video of his knuckleball. He responded with his own scouting report that read:

Clement Scouting Report: FB, SN, KN
52-69mph occasional arm side run
Works both sides of the plate
Will go to knuckle ball with runners in scoring position
Below average pickoff to 1B

Did Guardians manager Terry Francona know to expect a knuckleball in Clement’s repertoire?

“I don’t think Ernie knew he had a knuckleball,” Francona joked.

One of those five knucklers was used against Gio Urshela -- someone who already had two hits on the night. But instead of going over the plate, the 55.2 mph pitch went a few inches behind Urshela’s back and got by Luke Maile.

“I had to send him a message after his couple of hits today,” Clement quipped. “I threw that knuckleball behind him just to let him know.”

What he would’ve liked to have been a simple message actually may have been some nerves:

“Honestly, I was kind of sweaty,” Clement said, with a grin. “I was a little nervous. I think it might have slipped out of my hand a little bit.”

Clement adds yet another position to a résumé this season that already included first base, second base, third base, left field and designated hitter. And as long as he’s on this roster, no other position is off the table.

“I love that guy to death,” Guardians starter Triston McKenzie said. “He does it all. [There was] a picture of him in catcher’s gear earlier. I think he’s a guy that just brings morale to the team because you know that he’s gonna go out there and he’s gonna do whatever he needs to do to get the team a little bit more energy and whatever he needs to do to finish the game.”