Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

MLB News

A history of Orioles position players pitching

July 20, 2019

BALTIMORE -- A growing industry trend for years, the Orioles are taking the whole position player pitching thing to new levels in 2019. After seeing just nine position players take the mound over the franchise’s first 64 years in Baltimore, the Orioles have called upon three already this season to

BALTIMORE -- A growing industry trend for years, the Orioles are taking the whole position player pitching thing to new levels in 2019.

After seeing just nine position players take the mound over the franchise’s first 64 years in Baltimore, the Orioles have called upon three already this season to complete late-inning blowouts. Manager Brandon Hyde hopes this does not become the norm.

However, seeing Hanser Alberto, Chris Davis and Jesús Sucre toe the rubber got us thinking: What company do they keep? That led us to catalog all 14 instances below:

Larry Harlow
Date: June 26, 1978
Primary position: outfield

The first two position players to pitch in Orioles history actually did so on the same day, which ended in a 24-10 defeat to the Blue Jays. Such lopsided losses were not common, as the O’s staff posted a 3.56 ERA that year, good for fifth in the American League, led by still-in-his-prime Jim Palmer. But on this day, Mike Flanagan, Joe Kerrigan and Tippy Martinez allowed 18 runs in just three innings, prompting Earl Weaver to call upon his starting center fielder in the fifth. Harlow was tagged for five runs over two-thirds of an inning …

Elrod Hendricks
Date: June 26, 1978
Primary position: catcher

… and so along came Hendricks, the backup catcher, to mop up. He held Toronto scoreless for 2 1/3 innings, and retired with a 0.00 career ERA.

Player: Todd Cruz
Date: September 18, 1984
Primary position: shortstop

Like Hendricks, Cruz’s lone career appearance was excellent. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning of a 10-2 loss to the Yankees, retiring all three batters he faced. This was near the end of Cruz’s six-team big league career, the last two of those seasons spent with Baltimore.

Jeff Tackett
Date: August 11, 1993
Primary position: catcher

Another backup catcher -- sensing a trend here? -- Tackett surprisingly showed off a three-pitch arsenal in a 15-5 loss to the Tigers in Detroit during his third season with the Orioles. His repertoire featured a 92-mph fastball.

Manny Alexander
Date: April 19, 1996
Primary position: shortstop

A one-time infield prospect, Alexander’s mound appearance came during a forgettable 16-run inning that led to a 26-7 defeat to Texas. He’d go on to hit .282 with a .606 OPS over 11 Major League campaigns with the Orioles, Mets, Cubs, Red Sox, Padres, and, yes, Rangers.

Chris Davis
Date: May 6, 2012
Primary position: first base

It had been more than 16 years since the last Orioles position player toed the rubber when Davis stepped on the Fenway Park mound, and boy, was he worth the wait. One of the best performances by a non-pitcher in recent memory, Davis tossed two scoreless innings to cap a wild, 17-inning, 9-6 win over the Red Sox. Davis went 0-for-8 at the plate that day, but earned the victory in relief. The Orioles went on to end their 14-year playoff drought later that summer.

Ryan Flaherty
Date: August 20, 2016
Primary position: infield

Their bullpen taxed after a 1 1/3-innings performance by Wade Miley, the Orioles turned to utility man Flaherty during a trying stretch as they fought for the AL Wild Card spot. Flaherty allowed a home run to his first batter, Jason Castro, and largely wore the end of a 12-2 loss to the Astros. But he earned the distinction of becoming the first position player in franchise history to pitch at Camden Yards.

Danny Valencia
Date: August 2, 2018
Primary position: third base

Their roster irrevocably changed a day after sparking their rebuild with trades of Manny Machado, Kevin Gausman and others, the Orioles limped to a 17-8 loss to the Rangers that required some extra help at the end. Valencia hit 17 home runs over two separate stints in Baltimore, and recorded the final out of one forgettable evening in Texas.

Hanser Alberto
Date: April 7, 2019
Primary position: infield

The fun-loving Alberto has emerged as a favorite in his first year in Baltimore, both to the fan base and his teammates, who saw his mound work as endearing and selfless. Clearly trying to just get through it, Alberto floated mid-70s mph pitches that radar mistook as curveballs in the ninth inning of a 15-3 loss to the Yankees. “They were fastballs,” he clarified later.

Chris Davis
Date: April 20, 2019
Primary position: first base

Davis dabbled on the mound as a prospect at Navarro College in the early 2000s, and his wild 2019 season took another strange turn when he returned to the rubber for the first time in more than a decade for his second professional appearance. Shortly after breaking his record hitless streak, Davis found himself face to face with former teammate Jonathan Schoop, who socked a solo homer off Davis to account for the final run in a 16-7 loss to the Twins. Davis did get the next batter, Ehire Adrianza, whiffing on an 82-mph tailing fastball.

"I did watch CD and I’m going to ask him how to strike guys out,” Orioles rookie Branden Kline said afterwards. “Because he has more strikeouts than I do."

Jesus Sucre
Date: April 22, 2019
Primary position: catcher

Two weeks after Alberto’s debut on the mound, Hyde initially asked him again to bear the end of a 12-2 loss to the White Sox. That’s when Sucre interjected, volunteering for a role he’s familiar with. Sucre’s shutout inning marked the sixth pitching appearance of the backstop’s career, tying him with Drew Butera for the most among active players at the time.

"I don’t think I have any other records in my career, so that’s great,” said Sucre. “You gotta be proud.”

Stevie Wilkerson
Date: July 12, 2019
Primary position: Outfield

Wilkerson, a utility man for the O's, truly broadened the range of his do-it-all reputation when he came on for the final inning of a 16-4 blowout for the Rays. Tossing pitches that ranged from 66-73 mph, Wilkerson retired Tampa Bay in order, needing just 10 pitches to retire the side.

Stevie Wilkerson
Date: July 20, 2019
Primary position: Outfield

Called upon for the second time in eight days, Wilkerson entered with the Orioles trailing the Red Sox, 16-6, in the eighth inning. He took a little gas off his deliveries this time around, tossing 58 mph lobs, and was able to retire Jackie Bradley Jr. (who had already homered twice in the game) and Mookie Betts (who was a triple shy of the cycle) as he worked around a single for a scoreless inning.

Wilkerson's second frame was a little rockier as Boston catcher Sandy Leon took him deep over the right-center fence, but he was able to recover and get the last two outs, including a strikeout of Andrew Benintendi. All told: Just two hits and a run allowed over two valuable innings to give Baltimore's bullpen a breather.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.