One thing that we’ve seen on the rise in recent years is position players pitching. For various reasons, teams have gone to that well more and more often over the past couple seasons, taking some of the fun out of it in the process.
Meanwhile, the opposite end of the spectrum is becoming more and more rare. Occasionally, we’ll get one pinch-running, but for the most part, pitchers aren’t asked to do much besides pitch. But on very, very rare occasions, one will have to go and play the field for some reason or another. Let’s dig into the history books and look at some of the times we’ve seen those rare moments happen for pitchers wearing Yankees’ uniforms.
First Base: Bryan Mitchell
Several of the names on this team are going to be from an old era of baseball that was pre-DH, where it wasn’t as totally weird of for pitchers to fill in at other positions. However, this one was nothing short of bizarre.
In a 2017 game against the Orioles, reliever Bryan Mitchell was brought in for the top of the ninth with the Yankees losing 4-2. He threw a scoreless inning, and the Yankees then rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. Manager Joe Girardi then made the right move and brought in his closer Aroldis Chapman for the 10th. However, with Chapman coming in, the Yankees were in a bit of conundrum if the game continued on. Even before Mitchell came in, they had already used three relievers. Chapman isn’t really one to go multiple innings, especially in a random April game. They didn’t want to use any of the pitchers left in the bullpen due to usage from the previous couple days. Girardi and the team then came up with the plan for Mitchell to move to first base for the 10th inning, so he could then go back to the mound if the game went to the 11th.
Mitchell’s inning at first was an adventure at points.
He did make a catch on a pop up in foul territory for one of the outs. His lack of first base experience didn’t hurt the Yankees, as they got through the inning with the tie game still intact. The offense then couldn’t get it done meaning, Mitchell did in fact return to the mound for the 11th. That didn’t go as well as his first base stint. Mitchell allowed three runs that the Yankees had no reply for, taking the loss.
Second Base: Russ Ford
Here’s one of the old timey names I mentioned. Ford was a good pitcher on the 1909-13 Highlanders/Yankees’ teams, finishing 18th in MVP voting in 1911. The year after that, he played 16 innings across two games at second base, making two errors.
Shortstop: Harry Howell
Howell played enough elsewhere over his career that his positions on Baseball Reference are listed as “Pitcher, Outfielder and Third Baseman.” However, he was primarily a pitcher, throwing over 2500 career innings. In 1902 for the Baltimore Orioles, he played every position on the field except catcher, and then repeated a similar feat for them when the Orioles moved to New York and became the Highlanders the next year.
Third Base: King Brockett
Brockett is a similar story to Howell, and has other positions listed even though he was mostly a pitcher. He had a weird career in general, playing for the Highlanders from 1907-11, but in just three of those years, none of which were consecutive. His third base experiences consists of playing both games of a doubleheader there on June 29, 1911.
Left Field: Al Orth
Yet another normal pitcher who ended up playing all around the diamond over his career. However, the positions the Highlanders tended to use him at seemed to change every year, except for left field, in which he appeared for a game each in both 1905 and ‘07.
Center Field: Ron Guidry
Here we have probably the most famous “pitcher playing another position” moment in Yankees’ history.
After AL president Lee MacPhail upheld the Royals’ protest of the “Pine Tar Game” in 1983, Kansas City and the Yankees were ordered to resume playing almost a month after the incident. Yankees’ manager Billy Martin then staged a little protest of his own in the resumption, putting Don Mattingly at second base and putting his ace pitcher Guidry in center field. George Brett’s home run that led to the kerfuffle had come with two outs in the top of the ninth, so Guidry didn’t see much action when the teams resumed the game. The only at-bat for which he was out in center ended in a strikeout.
Right Field: Babe Ruth
It’s weird, the Yankees acquired this great pitcher ahead of the 1920 season, and then played him in the outfield for the rest of his career.
Ok, to be serious, we’ll go with Jack Warhop. A pitcher who had an up-and-down career in New York from 1908-15, he twice led the league in one stat: hit by pitches both 1909 and ‘10. He played exactly one game in left field in his first year in 1908, before then getting a game in the other corner outfield spot in his penultimate season in 1914.
For fairly understandable reasons, no Yankees’ pitcher has had to don the catcher’s equipment and play behind the plate. Because of the nature of the position, it typically takes an emergency for even a non-catching position player to take up the role, never mind a pitcher. To pick someone for the spot, we’ll just go with Austin Romine, because he pitched two different times during his Yankee career.