Position players pitching has weirdly become a thing that’s happened a lot this season. The number of players to have done it this season is now up over 40.
The Yankees have not had to resort to it so far this year, and that’s probably a good thing. The teams that usually have to do it are either getting blown out, or have played in a long game where they essentially run out of pitchers. The Yankees have gotten blown out and played in long games this year, but none of the situations have quite been bad enough to have to use Neil Walker as a pitcher.
Every team has had a history of it at some point, and the Yankees are no exception. Here are some of the best position player pitching moments in Yankee history.
It’s actually been a couple years since any Yankee position player has taken the mound, as Brendan Ryan was the last to do it, back in 2015. Ryan’s outing was also the longest of its type in nearly 50 years of Yankees baseball.
On August 25th, Ivan Nova got destroyed by the Astros, and Nick Rumbelow and Chris Capuano didn’t do much better out of the bullpen. Down 15-0, the Yankees gave Ryan the ball in the eighth. Not only did he throw one scoreless inning, he was brought out for a second. In the top of the ninth, he retired the Astros in order. In total, Ryan allowed two hits and no walks in his day on the mound.
Excluding people like Babe Ruth, Johnny Lindell, and others who at points in their careers were almost exclusively pitchers, the longest outing by a Yankee position player belongs to Gene Michael.
Despite only being down 5-1, Ralph Houk brought in Michael to pitch the seventh inning against the Angels on August 26, 1968. He did that with no problems, but was brought back out for the eighth. Things went poorly then, but it was hardly all his fault. Michael allowed five runs, but none were earned as shortstop Ruben Amaro had made an error. He got two outs before any of the runs scored, so had it not been for the error, Michael may have thrown another scoreless inning. Down 10-2 now, they had Michael throw a third inning in the ninth. None of the runs were earned, so Michael did finish his career with a 0.00 ERA.
Probably the most well known Yankee position player to pitch in recent memory is Nick Swisher in 2009. Well before the Yankees really got going that year and went all the way to a championship, they were getting crushed by the Rays on April 13th.
Already down ten runs, Joe Girardi let Swisher throw the eighth inning. He allowed a pair of runners to reach, but escaped with a scoreless inning, thanks in part to a strikeout of Gabe Kapler. He famously asked to keep the ball after the strikeout, making the most of a 10-run loss.
The almost undisputed winner of funniest Yankee position player pitching performance is Rocky Colavito’s.
Colavito was called on weirdly early with the Yankees down 5-0 in just the fourth inning against the Tigers on August 25, 1968. (Literally just one day before Michael was forced to the mound.) Colavito went on to throw 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and two walks.
Immediately following those 2.2 innings, the Yankees scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth, taking a lead. Colavito himself chipped in with a walk, and crossed the plate as the go-ahead run two batters later.
With the Yankees now suddenly in the lead, an actual pitcher was brought in, and the Yankees’ bullpen held on for a win. However, Colavito was still the pitcher when the Yankees took the lead. Therefore, he got credited for the win. He ended his career as the all-time leader in winning percentage as a pitcher with a mark of 1.000.
There are certainly other good ones that weren’t mentioned, so let us know your favorite pitching performance from a Yankee position player.