Monday, July 13, 2009

Pitchers in the Outfield

For those of you watching the Cubs-Cardinals game on ESPN last night - and I was definitely *not* one of you; I don't exactly need to hear Joe Morgan and Jon Miller talk about the Cubs or the rivalry with the Cards - you saw a pretty interesting maneuver by Chicago's Lou Piniella:
The second game featured some unusual maneuvering by Cubs manager Lou Piniella in the ninth inning. With no outs and the bases loaded, Piniella moved left-handed reliever Sean Marshall to left for one batter and moved him back to the mound to face left-handed hitter Skip Schumaker.

"We did what we had to do to try to keep the game in check and it worked," said Piniella.
Must've been fun to watch, aside from the hemming-and-hawing that I'm sure Joe, Jon, and Steve went into.

As fascinating as this was last night, though, it wasn't the first time this has happened. And it definitely wasn't the longest parade of position switches for pitchers. Actually, I wrote about this same thing only two months ago. The best story is a 1986 game between the Mets and Reds, when Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell shuttled between the outfield and the mound (and between the two outfield corners) for a couple of innings. There's also a couple of good stories about Fernando Valenzuela playing in both the outfield and at first base in separate games. Check it out: Forget About Non-Pitchers Pitching, How About Pitchers Playing the Field?.


Bill said...

As I wrote on Craig's "Morning in Exile" post (and on yours two months ago), I think this is an underused strategy.

How about the decision, though, to forbid Piniella from substituting Marmol for Marshall right after bringing him in again, when LaRussa inserted a pinch hitter? It seems to me that he's already pitched to a batter, and it doesn't make any sense to reset just because he went to the OF and skipped a batter. I can't find the rule governing this, so I don't know, maybe it's crystal clear. But if there's any ambiguity, I thik they should've ruled the other way on that one.

lar said...

Hmm, I'm not entirely clear on what happened, though I'm guessing it went like this (I did see some of the highlights on SC this morning): Marshall pitches to a batter(s); he moves to left and Heilman comes in to pitch; Heilman gets Ryan out and Piniella moves Marshall back to the mound (and puts Reed Johnson in left); LaRussa then brings in a pinch-hitter. Are you saying that Piniella then wanted to sub Marmol in for Marshall (removing Marshall from the game), but the umps wouldn't let him? That is strange.

The rule can be found as a (official) Comment to Rule 3.03 (pdf). The comment says: "Rule 3.03 Comment: A pitcher may change to another position only once during the same inning; e.g. the pitcher will not be allowed to assume a position other than a pitcher more than once in the same inning."

However, there is Rule 3.05(b): "If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher."

Since there has been an official double-switch at this point, with Johnson in left and Marshall on the mound, Marshall is the new, official substitute pitcher, right? If so, then this rule seems like it must apply, and LaRussa did the smart thing in waiting for it before he brought in his pinch-hitter. Make sense to you?

Bill said...

Yeah, that's pretty much what happened. LaRussa came out and made sure with the umps that Piniella would be stuck with Marhall before he made his move.

I guess you're right. It's phrased in terms that can really only apply to the act of changing pitchers and that particular batter. I was thinking maybe it was phrased more like "a new pitcher brought into the game must face at least one batter," in which case you could interpret it to allow Marshall to be removed right away.