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Yankees History: The super-est utility players

With Marwin Gonzalez two positions away from playing everywhere this season, let’s look at some other Yankee who had stints all over the diamond.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

In the eighth inning of last Friday’s 9-0 loss to the Rays at the Trop, the Yankees turned to a position-player pitcher for the first time this season and sent in Marwin Gonzalez to pitch. The veteran got the final out of the inning from the only batter he faced, Harold Ramírez.

Beyond the general notability of a position player pitching, Gonzalez’s stint on the mound also added something notable to his season. Including the couple times he’s technically been the Yankees’ DH when coming in as a pinch-runner, Gonzalez has now played all but two positions possible for the Yankees this season: catcher and center field. For his career, he’s never played behind the plate and has just three innings in center, so it’s unlikely that he’ll check off the full set, unless things get really weird in one game.

If Gonzalez somehow does end up at one of those positions, he would become a first in Yankees history. No player in franchise history has played at all nine positions in the field, plus DH. Even if you take out the DH part, no Yankee has played at all nine fielding positions so far. However, there are a number of Yankees who have played all over the diamond over their careers in pinstripes. Let’s take a look at those guys.

Eight different Yankees played at least once at all seven of the non-pitcher/catcher positions. That group ranges from a Hall of Famer in Mickey Mantle (a minor-league shortstop who cameoed all around the infield on random whims from Casey Stengel), all the way down to Bill Stumpf, he of a 47 OPS+ in 1912-13.

There’s only two from the group of eight who also then got appearances at DH: Randy Velarde and Clay Bellinger. Despite Bellinger playing just 181 games overs parts of three seasons with the Yankees, he racked up at least 18 innings at the seven non-pitching/catching fielding position, and at least 48 if you factor out right field.

New York Yankees Clay Bellinger...
Clay Bellinger
SetNumber: X63685 TK1 R7 F11

Going off his whole career, Hal Chase played every single position on the field except catcher, but on the Yankees specifically, he fell one position short of that feat. The legendary, um, “character” was known as an excellent defensive first baseman, but he traveled all around the diamond over his career in New York from 1905-13. Although he didn’t get a game in right field while a Yankee/Highlander, he did play every other non-catcher spot, including facing a single batter on the mound in 1908.

As one might expect, catcher is the big outlier position. Especially in recent years, the utility guys who play lots of positions occasionally get sent to the mound to eat up an inning or two in a blowout. However, catching is a specialized skill. While the Yankees have been willing to do it this season, teams sometimes won’t pinch-hit or replace their catcher mid-game, not wanting to risk an injury and having to use an emergency player at that position.

As a result, there aren’t a ton of players who caught and also ventured all the way around the diamond. Sure, there are some backstops who aw games at first base and maybe another spot, but not many who caught and then played a bunch of infield spots and also the outfield. One notable exception is Jim Leyritz. While he didn’t play the two other most notable defensive positions (shortstop and center field), he did everything else except pitch, including play DH, manning 7 of 10 spots over the course of his Yankee career. One occasion in 1990 led to disaster for poor Andy Hawkins.

The most fun combination might belong to another catcher: Rick Cerone. Over the course of his Yankee career, Cerone got games at first, second, and third bases in addition to his normal spot behind the plate. Plus in two different games in the 1987 season, he was sent in to pitch. Going off the position numbers, over his two stints as a Yankee, Cerone played the 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 spots.

There are a couple players from history who have played all nine positions in one game before, but no Yankee has come close to that yet. Although maybe for the hell of it, they should let Marwin try.

All data courtesy of Baseball Reference Stathead