Judging the Royals

Which Royals position player should pitch in a pinch?

Updated: 2013-07-17T18:36:58Z

By LEE JUDGE

The Kansas City Star

A while back I did a piece about which Royals pitcher should be used to play outfield should the need arise. That led a reader to ask which infielder should pitch if the Royals ran out of arms. In the past, the Royals used Mitch Maier: not because they thought he had the best arm, but because Mitch was the only one mature enough not to blow his arm out by trying to do too much. It might be instructive to know that Mitch Maier has a career ERA of 0.00.

Star beat writer Bob Dutton suggested that this theoretical pitching appearance be in a close, important game; say tied after 15 innings, winner goes to the playoffs. So I ran with Bob’s idea and here are some of the responses.

Which position player should pitch?

Elliot Johnson: "Hopefully, it’s me." Elliot’s reasoning went like this: being a utility player, he’s expendable. The Royals wouldn’t want a number-one draft pick blowing out his elbow. Elliot believes he could throw strikes, but isn’t sure where those strikes would be within the zone; but if real pitchers struggle with their control, he thinks it’s only reasonable for a position player to have the same problem.

And how hard could Elliot throw?

"92. Anything that starts with a nine will get you street cred." Elliot admits his curve and change "suck", but feels he could keep the ball in the zone. Johnson also felt there was no way the Royals would use an outfielder (an opinion shared by every other infielder), but felt sure he could keep the ball around the zone and force hitters to swing—which probably ought to be every pitcher’s game plan.

Mike Moustakas : "I’m going to say me and Hos." Moose had the semi-brilliant idea of keeping both of them on the infield and then letting them switch back and forth, depending on whether the hitter was left or right-handed. Mike would face the righties, Eric would get the lefties.

And what would Mike throw?

"Fastballs and cutters all the way." Moustakas thought he could get the fastball up there at 92 and then throw cutters when he needed something with movement. While we were talking about their future as the Batman and Robin of the pitching staff, Eric Hosmer was sitting nearby, eating his breakfast. Moose pointed at Hosmer and said Eric could hit 95 on the gun.

"Really? You threw 95?"

Eric Hosmer: "Three miles an hour harder if I just struck out." Hos then told a story about Dayton Moore and some scouts showing up to see him play—and he lined out every time he came to the plate. Eric got on the mound and was so (let’s pretend he used the word "upset") that he was "pumping it." The hitters never had a chance. Eric went on to admit that back then, he got upset every time he didn’t hit a home run.

Moustakas: "I did hit a home run every time."

Hosmer: "He’s right, he pretty much did."

OK, great plan: Moose and Hos share pitching duties. But how about Alcides Escobar? Doesn’t he have a great arm? Hos and Moose immediately admitted, yeah; Esky could throw hard and had a nasty sinker, which he apparently breaks out when he’s playing catch. "He can do some things with a baseball." Moose and Hos figured they would share starting duties and bring Esky in as the closer.

Hosmer: "Without a doubt, we have the best infield pitching staff in baseball."

So no outfielders on the mound? Even Frenchy? Jeff Francoeur is supposed to have one of the best outfield arms in baseball. If Jeff were still here, how hard did they think Jeff could throw off the mound?

Hosmer: "95—but straight." Outfielders have a long arm motion, infielders have a shorter version. Moose and Hos thought the shorter version would work better off the pitching mound. Maybe Francoeur would be better off if he were pitching from second base.

So far outfielders had taken a beating about their pitching talents, so I decided to find a couple and let them make their case. It happened in Yankee Stadium; Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain came in off the field and I asked them; how about it? In a tied game that mattered, who should pitch?

Jarrod Dyson: "Me. I can throw 91-92; put me on the bump, I can throw even harder." Dyson said he’d throw four-seamers and two-seamers exclusively. "Esky says when my throws come into the infield, they’re moving all over the place. He doesn’t know where they’re going."

"Do you?"

Dyson: "No—but I could break some bats. That’s what I’d be about: breaking bats." Informed that he’d only have to go one inning in my imaginary scenario, Jarrod responded: "Oh hell, I’d bring the ched." (Fastballs are sometimes called cheese—as in he was throwing some cheese up there—and "ched" is short for cheddar.)

When I told Jarrod the Moose-Hosmer plan—use Esky as a closer—he said: "Oh, man, I forgot about Esky; my bad. He’s got some nasty (stuff)." Dyson then came up with an entirely new plan: "Esky’s the starter, Moose is my closer—he can bring it—Hosmer for situational lefties."

Lorenzo Cain was sitting and listening to Dyson’s pitching plans, but he hadn’t offered any of his own. So I asked: "Lo, what about you. Do you think you could pitch?"

Lorenzo Cain: "I throw 85— I’d be Bruce Chen."

As you may have already noticed, big-league ballplayers do not lack for confidence. Pretty much every pitcher I talked to thought he could play outfield and pretty much every position player I talked to thought he could pitch. They’re not far wrong—most of these guys were by far the best player on their high school or college teams and many of them pitched, played a position and hit. And they’re not fooling about their velocity. A couple seasons ago I asked Eric Hosmer how hard he thought Alcides Escobar was throwing when he really let one loose and Hos said 96 to 97 miles an hour. I wouldn’t think Mike Moustakas is that far behind him. These guys really can do some things with a baseball. In an emergency, I don’t know who would pitch, but once again, there would be no shortage of volunteers.

And now we arrive at the next logical question: if the entire coaching staff came down with food poisoning, which player should manage?

I think I’ll go ask Miggy.

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