Former college closer retires the side in eighth inning vs. Rockies
Special to MLB.com
DENVER -- Before getting ready to pinch-hit in the eighth inning Tuesday and continue his run of success in that difficult role, Mitch Moreland did something different. He went to the indoor batting cage and began warming up with coach Bobby Jones.
Moreland was preparing for an experience he has waited years for, an experience he will forever savor. With the Rangers trailing the Rockies, 12-1, in the eighth, Moreland took the mound. He retired Jordan Pacheco and Corey Dickerson on fly balls to right and Charlie Blackmon on a comebacker.
Moreland singled in the eighth, giving him five consecutive pinch-hits and then took the mound in the bottom of the inning. Manager Ron Washington told Moreland to throw strictly fastballs. He mixed in one changeup to Blackmon and hit 90-94 mph with his fastball.
"I pitched in the past, and I didn't want to go up there and get hit," Moreland said. "I wasn't really going to take it easy."
Moreland was a closer at Mississippi State. His only other professional pitching experience was two scoreless innings in two games in 2008 at low Class A Clinton, and Moreland recalled them as "mop-up innings."
After that season, the Rangers sent Moreland to instructional league to "kind of test the waters again" as far as pitching. But from then on, he concentrated on hitting, albeit with the hope of some day getting an opportunity to pitch in the Major Leagues if a position player should be needed in a blowout.
"It's always been a dream of mine," Moreland said. "I've begged skip for years in situations like that."
The last Rangers position player to pitch was David Murphy at Boston on June 14, 2013. Moreland became the sixth position player ever to pitch for the Rangers.
Moreland said he veered from Washington's instructions slightly and did throw a couple cut fastballs. "Just playing around, "Moreland said. "Why not in that situation? Just have some fun with it."
But as instructed, Moreland never tried to throw a breaking pitch. Asked what was his breaking pitch, Moreland said, "Slider, probably. I don't really remember. It's been a while since I've thrown it."
Moreland gave his teammates a bit of pleasure on a night when they were trampled by the Rockies. They were glued to the speed board and marveled how he reached 94 mph. One thing he didn't do afterward was ice his arm.
"It's been 2008 since I pitched last," Moreland said, "so the way it's going, I think I'll have a little time to recover."