During the Orioles' 12-2 blowout loss to the Houston Astros Aug. 20, utility man Ryan Flaherty pitched the ninth inning, a last-ditch effort by manager Buck Showalter to avoid overtaxing the Birds' bullpen even further.
Flaherty became the seventh position player in O's history to make a pitching appearance. Who were the previous six?
During a lopsided 24-10 defeat in Toronto, O's manager Earl Weaver was at a loss to find a pitcher who could get outs. The first three hurlers of the game -- lefty Mike Flanagan, righty Joe Kerrigan and lefty Tippy Martinez -- each allowed six or more runs and combined to toss just three innings. A desperate Weaver then went a most unconventional route. He employed not one but two position players to try to clean up the mess.
The first, Harlow -- normally an outfielder -- only added fuel to the fire, giving up another five runs while recording just two outs. That spurred Weaver to summon Hendricks, the longtime O's catcher who that year was serving as a player/coach. Incredibly, Hendricks -- whose only previous pitching experience was tossing batting practice -- posted a brilliant performance. He tossed 2.1 scoreless innings, surrendering only a single and a walk.
the Blue Jays hitters were exhausted and got themselves out, but nevertheless, he went into the record books with a career 0.00 ERA as a pitcher.
Cruz, a popular but weak-hitting infielder, pitched the bottom of the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium during a 10-2 loss. Just like Hendricks, his one and only pitching appearance was a complete success. He retired all three batters he faced, two on fly balls and one on a grounder.
Tackett's brief big league career lasted parts of four seasons, all of which he spent as the Orioles' backup catcher. Well, except for one game, when he toed the pitcher's mound during a 15-5 loss at Tiger Stadium. Tackett allowed a single and a walk but gutted through a scoreless eighth inning, and he reportedly
brought a three-pitch arsenal
to the hill.
Alexander is not exactly a fondly remembered member of Orioles lore. The once highly touted infield prospect turned into a dud for the Birds, batting .206 with a .535 OPS during 155 games with the club. The O's had trouble figuring out what to do with him, to the point that manager Davey Johnson threw him onto the mound during a 26-7 trouncing in Texas. Alexander was tossed into the fire in a bases-loaded situation and allowed all three runs to score, along with five of his own, amidst the Rangers' 16-run eighth inning. Alexander didn't exactly find a new career path that day. Asked about his pitching experience, he said, "I hate this."
You'd be hard-pressed to find an Orioles fan who doesn't remember this game, one of the wildest and most improbable victories in O's history. The Birds and Red Sox were tied at six at the end of regulation at Fenway Park, forcing the game into extra innings, where both teams traded zeroes into the 16th. Showalter, after using every available arm out of his bullpen, had to improvise. He called on Davis -- the designated hitter, who was 0-for-8 with five strikeouts at the plate that day -- to make his first career pitching appearance.
The rest was history. Davis set the tone for his surprisingly dominant outing by striking out the first batter he faced. Later in the inning, with two outs and a runner at first, Mike Aviles doubled to the wall. But the Birds' defense pulled off a great relay to throw out the winning run at home, keeping the game tied. After Adam Jones' go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the 17th, Davis returned to the mound for another scoreless inning, inducing a game-ending double play to pick up the victory -- the first O's position player ever to do so -- and conclude an incredible six-hour, seven-minute O's win. That set the tone for the Orioles' unexpected playoff-bound 2012 season after 14 straight losing years.
Flaherty's pitching appearance didn't hold a candle to Davis' in terms of effectiveness or drama. Showalter simply had no other options after two straight early exits by O's starting pitchers (an abbreviated two-inning Chris Tillman outing Aug. 20, following a 1.2-inning performance by Wade Miley Aug. 19) overtaxed the Birds' long relievers. Flaherty coughed up a homer to his first batter, Jason Castro, and later allowed an RBI double, but he got the three outs he needed to spare Showalter from using another hurler. Flaherty became the first O's position player ever to pitch in front of the home crowd in Baltimore.
All told, the seven Orioles position-player pitchers have combined to allow 12 earned runs in 8.2 innings (12.46 ERA), although four of the seven had scoreless appearances.