Christian Bethancourt, a Catcher, Threw Some Filthy Pitches Yesterday
One of the more enjoyable things to watch in baseball is when a position player takes the mound. Pitching to Major League hitters is such a specialized act that, even though these are the best baseball players in the world, it's nearly impossible for any 'ol Joe to get up on the mound and start hurling the rock at opposing hitters.
That's why, when a team uses a position player to pitch, it's cause for celebration. It reminds us all of our little league days, when we'd run in from left field or third base and take over on the mound. pretending for a few minutes that we are Steve Carlton or Pedro Martinez.
Enter San Diego catcher Christian Bethancourt, who entered the 8th inning of a 16-4 blowout loss to the Mariners in Seattle as the Padres new pitcher. Generally, when a position player pitches, they're just chucking fastballs up there in the mid-80s to low-90s and hoping to get the ball over the plate.
And while Bethancourt struggled with his control (two walks and a hit batter) and registered only two outs, he seemed more intent on creating a work of art.
The @Padres' Christian Bethancourt can throw 96 mph. He can also throw 53: https://t.co/SXaRXGWMXv pic.twitter.com/IyQBfIoNoq
— Cut4 (@Cut4) June 1, 2016
Yes that's right. Bethancourt came out throwing an easy 96 mph cheese, then dropped a 53 mph eephus pitch on some poor fool.
Don't let anyone tell you baseball isn't fun.
MLB Statcast was, of course, keeping track of Bethancourt's stuff, and it was legit, if a bit uncontrolled.
Bethancourt is throwing fastballs 93-95, changeups 84-87, and knucklers 53-64. HE IS A CATCHER. He is my new favorite player.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) May 31, 2016
But if that wasn't great enough, Padres manager Andy Green had to remove Bethancourt from the game after he hit Seth Smith with a 59 mph pitch, and instead of going to a real relief pitcher, decided to keep everything local and put shortstop Alexi Amarista in the game to get the last out. As a result, Bethancourt, a catcher, moved to second base, after having already played some left field in the game.
So Bethancourt logged time at catcher, left field, second base and pitcher in this contest, making a bit of history along the way.
ICYMI Christian Bethancourt became 5th player in last 100 years to appear at P, C, IF and OF in same game pic.twitter.com/nX4rov67JJ
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 1, 2016
And in those four other cases, those players played all nine positions in the game in which they appeared.
Christian Bethancourt has played 2B, LF, P. Per @baseball_ref, fifth to do that, first not playing all 9 in 1 game. pic.twitter.com/QJ7hBFGnX3
— Mitch Goldich (@mitchgoldich) May 31, 2016
Amarista needed just two pitches to record the final out of the 8th inning. And while it is unusual for a position player to pitch in a Major League game, it's even rarer for two position players to appear back-to-back in the same game, although not as rare as you might think.
According to Baseball Reference, three position players have pitched in the same game twice, and two have pitched in the same game on numerous occasions, including three times just last year.
Last June, Jake Elmore and Nick Franklin both pitched an inning for the Tampa Bay Rays in their 16-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. The very next day, Cleveland's Ryan Raburn and David Murphy combined to pitch the final inning of the Indians' 17-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs. And in September, the White Sox' Leury Garcia and Alexei Ramirez each pitched an inning in Chicago's 17-6 loss to the Oakland A's.
But none of them were dropping eephus pitches and mid-90s fastballs on fools.
So perhaps this should become a regular thing for Bethancourt. After all, he is a career .226/.252/.319 hitter, with a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 55 in 345 plate appearances. If he's going to hit like a pitcher, the Padres might as well train him to be a real pitcher, given the ease at which he was mixing speeds and throwing gas. If someone can teach the kid some control, you're talking about real money, here.
A game like this is what makes baseball so fun. In what other sport can there be this much to talk about in a blowout loss? How many other sports have something to debate after one team crushes another like this?
What was the best thing about Christian Bethancourt's relief appearance? I really can't decide
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) May 31, 2016
I can't decide, either.