Shortstop Tony Pena Jr pitches against Detroit
After giving up 10 runs in the top of the eighth inning to the Detroit Tigers last night, the Kansas City Royals found themselves trailing 19-0. After a rally for crooked numbers in the bottom of the frame only pulled them within 15, KC skipper Trey Hillman asked shortstop Tony Pena Jr. if he wanted to pitch the ninth. Pena needed just 12 pitches to set the Tigers down in order, including a strikeout of future Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.
“It was fun,” said Pena, who’s .152 batting average so far this season is pitcher-esque.
Seven other major league non-pitchers from the Dominican Republic got a chance to work from the mound in a big-league game. Here’s a look back at those memorable (or, in some cases, forgettable) outings:
8/26/1965 – MATTY ALOU of the San Francisco Giants
With his club trailing the Pirates 8-0 through the seventh-inning-stretch in the first game of a double-header, Alou went to work to give the pitching staff a break. The first man his faced was Cooperstown-bound Willie Stargell, who he struck out looking. The next two batters hit safely, but Alou K’d Gene Alley after a foul out to strand them, then put up another zero in the eighth. Overall: 2ip 3h 0r 1bb and 3 K’s. Who was the third strikeout? Why, none other than a second whiff of the great Pops Stargell! (The Giants also lost the second game when their defense let down Gaylord Perry, but Pittsburgh traded for Matty Alou following the season and he won the 1966 NL batting title for them…and never struck out Stargell again!).
9/7/78 – SAM MEJIAS of the Montreal Expos
On a night the Expos trailed the visiting New York Mets 9-0 after three innings, they called on Mejias in the ninth after burning through five pitchers only to get within 9-4 through eight. Mejias hit John Stearns, and threw a pair of wild pitches, but kept the Mets off the scoreboard. His heroics weren’t enough, as the Expos went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth against another Dominican, Nino Espinosa, who won it with a complete game.
6/26/1983 – MANNY CASTILLO of the Seattle Mariners
A fine-fielding third-baseman nicknamed Bonny who earned the equivalent of the Gold Glove award in the Dominican league, Castillo turned in the longest, and arguably ugliest, pitching effort by a position player from his country. On a Sunday afternoon at the Kingdome, with only 6,593 in attendance, Castillo came on to pitch the top of the sixth with his teammates trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 12-3. After getting a pair of flyouts to begin, Mickey Klutts and Rance Mullinks hammered back-to-back home runs. Castillo struck out Lloyd Moseby to start the seventh, but the Blue Jays added another run after Jesse Barfield was hit by a pitch. In the eighth, Castillo gave up another long ball to Klutts leading off, walked a couple, threw a wild pitch & had to be relieved after allowing seven runs on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. While he did notch his second strikeout (of Jesse Barfield), Seattle had to call on closer Bill Caudill to get the last four outs of a 19-7 defeat.
7/20/1990 – JUNIOR NOBOA of the Montreal Expos
Man, I miss the Expos! Trailing 10-0 entering the bottom of the eighth at the Astrodome, Montreal basically conceded their fifth consecutive loss by sending outfielder Dave Martinez to the mound. Things went from bad to worse though, and Noboa relieved Martinez with one out, the bases loaded, and the margin increased to 11-0. He walked Astros catcher Alex Trevino to force in Houston’s twelfth run, then escaped further damage by inducing an inning-ending double play ball off the bat of pitcher Jim Clancy. Noboa then singled in a run and scored another as the inspired Expos tried to rally in the ninth, but they fell short 12-6.
4/19/1996 – MANNY ALEXANDER of the Baltimore Orioles
Before Baltimore’s 30-3 embarrassment at the hands of the Texas Rangers, there was this. Manny Alexander couldn’t replace Cal Ripken at shortstop, and he couldn’t throw strikes either! Baltimore was already down 18-7 in the bottom of the eighth inning when Alexander came on with the bases loaded and one out. Before he was through, the Rangers rang up a 16-run inning to win 26-7. Alexander began by issuing three consecutive walks to force in runs -to Juan Gonzalez, Mickey Tettleton & Dean Palmer. After a sacrifice fly for the second out made it 22-7, he issued another free pass and served up a grand slam to Kevin Elster. Ughh!
6/30/2002 – D’ANGELO JIMENEZ of the San Diego Padres
After a serious automobile accident knocked him from future Yankees great to guy thanking his lucky stars to be alive and a utility infielder, you’ve got to root for a guy that shares Joaquin Andujar’s birthday and displays such versatility and resilience. When San Diego found themselves down 13-1 with two outs in the eighth inning of an interleague match-up at Kansas City, Jimenez entered and got four air outs from the four batters he faced to keep things from getting further out of hand.
5/30/2004 – ABRAHAM NUNEZ of the Pittsburgh Pirates
First off, if you’re scoring at home, we’re referring to Abraham Orlando Nunez, the 5’11” infielder from Santo Domingo. Not Abraham Nunez, the 6’2″ outfielder from Haina. Got that? Anyway, on a Sunday afternoon when the efforts of a half-dozen hurlers had Pittsburgh behind the visiting Cubs 12-1 in the ninth, Nunez replaced Brian Meadows on the hill after Chicago struck for their seventh run of the inning. He needed only three pitches to retire Corey Patterson on a fly ball to end the inning, thus completing the last pitching appearance by a Dominican position player prior to last night.
by MALCOLM ALLEN