NEW YORK -- Bryan Mitchell remembers playing first base only sparingly during his senior year at Rockingham County High School in Reidsville, N.C., but the Yankees' pitcher did not hesitate when asked if he could handle an inning in the field on Sunday afternoon.With the Yankees' bullpen short on arms
NEW YORK -- Bryan Mitchell remembers playing first base only sparingly during his senior year at Rockingham County High School in Reidsville, N.C., but the Yankees' pitcher did not hesitate when asked if he could handle an inning in the field on Sunday afternoon.
With the Yankees' bullpen short on arms late in Sunday's 7-4, 11-inning loss to the Orioles, Mitchell moved from the mound to first base and back again, extending the contest before ultimately surrendering the go-ahead run on Mark Trumbo's single up the middle to take the loss.
"It was definitely fun," Mitchell said. "It was something that was new to me, going from pitching to the field and back to pitching. You never know what to expect. That's part of the game, so you've got to be ready to do whatever."
Mitchell became the first Yankees pitcher to play another position since Ron Guidry, who manned center field in the conclusion of the "Pine Tar Game" against the Royals in 1983. The last big leaguer to pitch and play first base in the same game was Chuck Crim of the 1989 Brewers.
After Mitchell pitched a scoreless ninth, New York tied the game on Didi Gregorius' two-run single. With closer Albertin Chapman warming, pitching coach Larry Rothschild approached Mitchell to gauge his readiness to play first base. Mitchell nodded and dashed to the clubhouse, retrieving one of Greg Bird's extra gloves.
"I wasn't expecting that at the time, for sure," Mitchell said. "Larry basically came up and asked if I'd ever done it. I was like, 'Yeah, a while ago, but I'm capable.' That was pretty much it. He said, 'All right, get a glove.'"
The move was necessary because only two pitchers remained in the bullpen after Chapman. Adam Warren was completely unavailable after throwing 36 pitches in Saturday's 12-4 victory, and manager Joe Girardi didn't think Tommy Layne had a lot left after being used for 27 pitches in the same game.
"I really didn't want to use Tommy Layne too much. I knew I didn't have him much," Girardi said. "Adam I wasn't going to use. It was the only way to use Chappy, I felt, to give us a chance in the bottom of the inning to win the game. Then I would go back to Mitchell. It was the only way I could do it."
According to Rule 5.11(a), once the pitcher is moved to another defensive position, the designated hitter is terminated for that club. As such, Chapman replaced Matthew Holliday as the No. 3 hitter, with Mitchell taking over for first baseman Chris Carter in the No. 8 spot.
"I've got a strikeout pitcher on the mound who I feel good about," Girardi said. "This way, the chances of him handling the ball are probably not too good. Now, if you've got a ground-ball pitcher and a bunch of left-handers coming up, it's probably a different story."
The ball found Mitchell quickly. Welington Castillo lifted a popup that Mitchell dropped for an error, but Mitchell atoned by snaring Jonathan Schoop's foul pop two batters later. When the crowd cheered, Mitchell said that he had difficulty stifling a grin.
"I guess I should have expected the first one to find me," Mitchell said. "That's something abnormal to me, but I know I can catch a fly ball."
Bird hit for Chapman in the 10th, sending Mitchell back to the mound in the 11th. Mitchell retired two of the first three batters before a stolen base and intentional walk set up Trumbo's hit up the middle and Castillo's two-run single to right field.
"We were short on pitchers, so I knew that I would maybe have to do something unorthodox," Girardi said.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.