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With catcher on mound, Javy bats ... lefty?

Kyle Farmer slow-pitches 1 1/3 scoreless; Baez's decision encouraged
August 9, 2019

CINCINNATI -- The last thing the Reds wanted to see during the start of a critical four-game series against the Cubs was a rout that required manager David Bell to turn to a position player to pitch. But during the eighth inning of a 12-5 Chicago win over Cincinnati, after

CINCINNATI -- The last thing the Reds wanted to see during the start of a critical four-game series against the Cubs was a rout that required manager David Bell to turn to a position player to pitch.

But during the eighth inning of a 12-5 Chicago win over Cincinnati, after David Hernandez gave up five runs in 1 2/3 innings, Bell walked to the mound and walked right past the reliever to his second baseman, Kyle Farmer, and asked if he could pitch. Farmer, a utility player, started the game at catcher.

Box score

“You never really want to be in that situation as a team, but I guess it was a smart move to save the bullpen for the rest of the big weekend we have ahead of us,” Farmer said. “I haven’t pitched since my senior year of high school.

"I threw a little harder in high school and had a pretty good curveball, too, but it was a fun experience."

Both teams appeared to have fun with the situation as Farmer tossed slow curveballs that did not even register on the radar gun. His first batter, Jason Heyward, grounded out routinely to second base but was seen grinning as he ran up the line to first base.

“I’m going to have to see my spin rate, talk to [Trevor] Bauer and see if he sees a vertical drop on that or not,” Farmer said. “Tucker [Barnhart] asked me for signs, and I said, ‘No, just get back there and just catch it.’ It was funny because I work out with Heyward in the offseason all the time.”

Farmer delivered 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief with one hit -- Victor Caratini's two-out single in the ninth. In another light moment, after Caratini's hit, Cubs shortstop Javier Báez – normally a right-handed hitter – batted left-handed. Some of Baez's teammates in the Cubs' dugout encouraged it, because that is something he does occasionally during batting practice as a way to stretch his lower back, given the amount of torque caused by his violent swing from the right side.

Under the circumstances, Baez did not think the Reds would think it was a big deal, either.

"No. I think every team knows I can hit lefty," Baez said. "They saw me on TV and on social media."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon had no problem giving the green light to Baez, who is left-handed in every other part of his life except for baseball.

"This guy, his left-handed swinging is so good, if you watch him in BP. It's that good. Of course, people think you're nuts when you say stuff like that, but he's capable. He could've done that years ago."

In a 9-1 win against the D-backs on April 27, Baez missed his chance to hit from the left side when Arizona catcher Caleb Joseph pitched in the ninth inning. Maddon told Baez to make sure to ask the next time a similar opportunity arose.

That moment arrived on Thursday night.

"At first, I was scared," Baez said. "I think last time I faced a position player, I was close to doing it and Joe was like, 'Oh, yeah, yeah. Do it.' I didn't want to do it, because I didn't know how it was going to be. Tonight, everybody was like, 'Yo, you've got to do it. You've got to do it.' And I asked Joe, and he's like, 'Yep, you've got to do it.'"

Baez swung at the first pitch from Farmer, dropping to one knee and sending it to center field for an inning-ending flyout.

"I was kind of nervous, but I wanted to swing so bad," Baez said. "I tried to wait for it, but it just never got there, and I kind of got jammed a little bit, because I was waiting too much."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last Major League player to catch and pitch in the same game was Taylor Davis of the Cubs -- which just happened on Tuesday vs A's. The last Reds player to pitch and catch in the same game was Dee Moore in 1936.

One person who was relieved after Baez ended the inning was Bell, who was nervous about using Farmer to pitch. His plan, if needed, was to have him alternate on the mound with shortstop José Peraza.

“Thankfully, Kyle knew exactly what he was doing, and you never want to get someone hurt,” Bell said. “I never feel comfortable doing it, but I knew with his experience, he could handle it, and he did. He was throwing really slow, as we all saw, I don't think he was in danger of hurting himself. He saved us. We really didn't need to use another pitcher, which is really important for us right now.”