Leury, Alexei aid bullpen with scoreless frames
White Sox position players work eighth, ninth innings of blowout
CHICAGO -- Josh Phegley knew all about Alexei Ramirez's ability to pitch, even before the White Sox shortstop took the mound in the ninth inning of Oakland's 17-6 victory Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Oakland catcher came to the A's via a six-player trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox during this past offseason. So he saw Ramirez in action during down time in Arizona.
"Every Spring Training, before we'd take infield, he'd get on the mound while we were waiting and start throwing pitches to me," said Phegley. "I've always thought he has really good stuff.
"He might've said he pitched in Cuba before, but my only goal was to not strike out. I was like, 'You just can't punch out against Alexei.' I think that led to me swinging at about everything he was throwing, and it was a battle."
A 12-pitch battle, to be exact, which finished with Phegley flying out deep to Adam Eaton in center. Ramirez ended up throwing a scoreless ninth, allowing just an Eric Sogard double that sailed over the head of left fielder Melky Cabrera.
In a game in which Jeff Samardzija lasted only four batters into the fourth, following up a 14-inning affair Monday and Chris Sale's abbreviated start Sunday, White Sox manager Robin Ventura had to turn to two position players in this wipeout. Leury Garcia made his second career mound appearance with a scoreless eighth, striking out Jason Pridie for his first career whiff.
Then, it was time for Ramirez's debut, marking the first time since Frank Isbell and Sam Mertes on Sept. 28, 1902, that two White Sox position players pitched in the same game, according to Elias Sports.
"I just talked with Robin and said, 'Hey, if you need someone to pitch, I can do it,'" said Ramirez through interpreter and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo. "I enjoyed it. It was very special. I have to thank [Ventura] for the opportunity. It was something that I always liked to do, and I could do it today."
"The way the bullpen was the last few days, we're very light out there," Ventura said. "Leury has done it before, Alexei is probably the best equipped to throw strikes and make the best of a bad situation."
Make no mistake that while fans and the position players actually pitching get a kick out of moving to the mound, it's usually not a source of pride for the team. But Ramirez provided a highlight in this blowout, touching as high as 91 mph with his fastball per MLB.com's Gameday, and mixing in a pretty decent slider among his 28 pitches.
There was even a moment in the Phegley at-bat where Ramirez shook off catcher Geovany Soto. Ramirez didn't want to throw inside and challenge Phegley's power.
"It was a very good at-bat for him. It was a very good fight for me. I pitched him very well," said Ramirez of facing his former teammate. "I tried to throw some offspeed pitches and get him off balance. He fought and at the end, I got the result. But it was good. It was very fun at-bat and I enjoyed it. I tried to do my best in that at-bat."