On June 25, 2016, the Royals lost to the Houston Astros at home by the score of 13-5. The last two games have not been pretty for the Royals. In their last two games, the starting pitchers for the Royals, Edinson Volquez and Chris Young, have given up a total of 18 runs in 3 1/3 innings for an ERA of 48.60. This places a big strain on the bullpen and it finally came to the breaking point when Ned Yost elected to have backup catcher Drew Butera pitch the top of the ninth inning. Drew’s father, Sal Butera, was a catcher in the major leagues nine seasons and also pitched a couple of games in his career.
It is generally not a sign of good things to have a position player come into a game and pitch. It either means that the team is losing badly and their bullpen is spent, or the game is in extra innings and there are no other pitchers left to pitch. In the history of the Kansas City Royals, there have been nine position players who have pitched 15 innings over 12 games. They have had a combined 3.60 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, nine walks, four strikeouts, and 19 hits while facing 69 batters. Only one home run has been given up along with four doubles and a triple. Every time a Royals position player has pitched, it has been to finish a game that the Royals lose.
This is a brief history of all occasions when a Royals position player has pitched in a game:
August 20, 1979 – vs New York Yankees
Jerry Terrell was the first position player in franchise history to pitch in a game. The Royals were sitting 4 1/2 games back in third place in the American League West when the New York Yankees came into town for a three-game series. Royals starter Rich Gale was rocked for five runs in 1 2/3 innings. He was relieved by Steve Mingori, who gave up a career-high eight runs in 1 1/3 innings. Marty Pattin relieved Mingori, giving up five runs. Manager Whitey Herzog decided to bring in utility player Jerry Terrell to pitch the top of the ninth inning. Terrell had replaced George Brett at third base in the seventh inning. Terrell was able to get second baseman Fred Stanley to pop out to shortstop Todd Cruz for the first out. Center fielder Bobby Brown popped out to Clint Hurdle at third base in foul territory for the second out. Finally, he was able to get left fielder Lenny Randle to fly out to Willie Wilson in center field to end the inning. The Royals lost the game 4-17.
May 14, 1980 – at New York Yankees
Jerry Terrell became the first Royals position player to pitch more than one game in franchise history as well as being the first position player to pitch in an away game. Dennis Leonard had the worst start of his Royals career, pitching only 2 2/3 innings and giving up three home runs and eight earned runs. Marty Pattin entered the game in relief and stopped the bleeding, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Gary Christensen relieved Pattin and the Yankees scored six runs, but only two of them earned because of three errors on the Royals. Steve Busby relieved Christensen with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and walked the first batter he faced. Busby ended up pitching 1 1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Manager Jim Frey brought in Terrell to pitch. He walked the leadoff batter, left fielder Bobby Murcer. They he was able to get the designated hitter, Bob Watson, to fly out to Bob Detherage in left field for the first out. First baseman Jim Spencer flied out to Rusty Torres in right field. Then, third baseman Fred Stanley hit a line drive into left field for a single. With two men one and with two outs, Terrell was able to get right fielder Bobby Brown to ground out to the pitcher to end the inning. The Royals lost the game 3-16.
September 1, 1983 – at Chicago White Sox
Utility player Joe Simpson became the second position player ever to pitch in a game. Starter Buddy Black was taken out of the game in the fifth inning after giving up four runs in 4 1/3 innings. His replacement, Mark Huismann, came into the game with a 6.07 ERA. He left the game after just two innings, giving up seven runs and raising his ERA to 9.39. Eric Rasmussen in during the seventh inning and gave up a walk before recording an out. He was then replaced by Dan Quisenberry, who was able to record the final out of the inning. It was decided by Manager Dick Howser not to waste Quisenberry for another inning, so Simpson was brought into the bottom of the eighth inning. Simpson was able to get both center fielder Miguel Dilone and third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez to fly out to right fielder Leon Roberts for the first two outs. Then, Simpson walked right fielder Dave Stegman. Left fielder Jerry Hairston then doubled to right field, scoring Stegman. It would be the first earned run charged to a position player who was pitching. Simpson then waked shortstop Jerry Dybzinski. With two on base with two outs, Simpson was able to get second baseman Julio Cruz to ground the ball to George Brett at third base to force Hairston out. The Royals lost the game 0-12.
September 5, 1983 – vs Seattle Mariners
Joe Simpson pitched his second game as a Royals player four days later against the visiting Seattle Mariners. Starter Larry Gura gave up six runs, five of which were earned, in 3 2/3 innings before being relieved by Mark Huismann. This time, Huismann only gave up a hit before recording his only out while pitching. Keith Creel was brought in to pitch in the fifth inning. He gave up seven runs in only 1 2/3 innings pitched. He was relieved by Mike Armstrong who pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Manager Dick Howser decided not to waste another pitcher, so he brought in Simpson to pitch in the eighth inning. He became the first position player to pitch two innings in one game. In the top of the eighth inning, Simpson was able to get Harold Reynolds to fly out to Leon Roberts in left field. Simpson then became the first position player in franchise history to strikeout a batter, shortstop Spike Owen. The next batter, center fielder Phil Bradley, hit a single to center field. Manny Castillo was then brought in by Seattle as a pinch hitter and lined out to shortstop U L Washington to end the inning. The Royals were unable to score any runs in the bottom of the eighth, so Simpson came in again the top of the ninth inning to pitch. He was able to get former Royals player Ken Phelps to fly out to Leon Roberts in left field to start the inning. Then, left fielder Ricky Nelson grounded out to second baseman Onix Concepcion, second to first. Again, with two outs, Simpson gave up a two-out single to right fielder John Moses. Third baseman Darnell Coles then hit a single to left field. With two men on and the Mariners threatening, catcher Orlando Mercado hit a ground out to first baseman Willie Aikens to end the innings. The Royals lost the game 6-13.
July 3, 1984 – at Cleveland Indians
Utility outfielder Leon Roberts pitched the only game of his major league career against the Cleveland Indians. THe day before the game, the Royals had played a doubleheader with Cleveland. On this day, Buddy Black had one of the worst starts in Royals history, giving up seven runs in only one complete inning pitched. In the second inning, he was relieved by Joe Beckwith, who pitched five innings, giving up a home run and five earned runs. Mark Huismann was brought in and pitched a scoreless inning. Manager Dick Howser decided not to waste another pitcher, so he brought in Roberts to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning. It would be the roughest inning a position player had ever had in franchise history. The inning started off very well for Roberts. He made only the second strikeout in franchise history by a position player, striking out left fielder Mel Hall. He then gave up a double to right fielder George Vukovich before giving up the only home run a position player had ever allowed to catcher Chris Bando. He was able to get third baseman Brook Jacoby to fly out to Pat Sheridan in center field, but then allowed second baseman Tony Bernazard to single to right field. Roberts then walked center fielder Brett Butler. Shortstop Julio Franco then singled to right field, scoring Bernazard. Now, with two men on and two outs, Roberts was finally able to record the final out by having first baseman Mike Hargrove to line out to Buddy Biancalana at second base. The Royals lost the game 3-15.
June 24, 1991 – vs California Angels
Seven seasons later, Bill Pecota who pitch his only game as a Royals player. Pecota is one of the greatest utility players in the history of the Royals and after pitching in this game, he became the only player in franchise history to play every position. On the previous day, the Royals lost both games of a doubleheader to the Baltimore Orioles, using six pitchers, of which three pitched in both games. The Royals were in need of a quality start. However, Royals starter Hector Wagner gave up eight runs, seven of which were earned, in just four innings before being relieved by Tom Gordon. Gordon had a masterful game, pitching three scoreless innings. However, Gordon had started a game two nights previous and pitched seven innings. With the bullpen was depleted and Gordon giving up a leadoff triple to right fielder Dave Winfield, new manager Hal McRae elected to move Pecota from first base to pitcher for the final two innings of the game with the Royals down by six runs. Without much of a warm up pitching, Pecota game up a single to designated hitter Dave Parker which scored Winfield. Third baseman Jack Howell then flied out to Gary Thurman in left field. Shortstop Donnie Hill then hit a single into shallow center field. With two men on, Pecota was able to get second baseman Luis Sojo to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. With the Royals unable to score in the bottom of the eighth, Pecota came in again in the ninth inning. First he was able to get catcher John Orton to ground out to Kevin Seitzer, third to first. Then left fielder Luis Polonia flied out to Brian McRae in center field. Then center fielder Dave Gallagher doubled down the third base line. With two outs, Pecota was able to get first baseman Wally Joyner to fly out to Thurman in left field to end the inning. The Royals were able to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but it was not enough. The Royals lost the game 4-9.
April 12, 1994 – vs Boston Red Sox
In only the sixth game of the season, the Royals were hosting the Boston Red Sox when David Howard became only the fifth position player in franchise history to pitch in a game. Starter Kevin Appier had one of the worst starts of his career, giving up nine runs in three innings pitched. Relief pitcher Hipolito Pichardo stopped the bleeding by pitching two scoreless innings. Stan Belinda was brought in sixth inning and was rocked for eight runs, only two of which were earned due to two errors, while only pitching one inning. Jeff Montgomery had the worst game of his career, giving up four runs in the seventh inning. Manager Hal McRae decided not to waste any more pitchers and moved Howard from shortstop to pitcher in the eighth inning with the Royals down by 13 runs. He walked the leadoff batter, center fielder Lee Tinsley, to start the eighth inning. Right fielder Billy Hatcher hit a fly ball that was dropped by center fielder Kevin Koslofski, who was charged with the team’s third error. However, when Hatcher tried to stretch out the single into a double, Koslofski threw the ball to shortstop Terry Shumpert who then threw the ball to Jose Lind at second base to get the first out. Howard then walked left fielder Greg Blosser and first baseman Mo Vaughn. Designated hitter Scott Fletcher then hit a single to right field, scoring Tinsley from third and loaded the bases. Fortunately, Howard was able to get second baseman Tim Naehring to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. The Royals were unable to score in the bottom of the inning, so Howard came out again to pitch the ninth inning. Future Royals player Scott Cooper hit a leadoff single to center field. Then Howard walked shortstop John Valentin. Howard then faced Tinsley a second time and was able to get him to hit into a forceout of Valentin at second base. With runners at first and third bases, Howard then walked Hatcher to load the bases. Fortunately, he was able to get Blosser to fly out to McRae in center field to end the inning. The Royals rallied in the bottom of the ninth and scored three runs, but it would not be enough. The Royals lost the game 11-22.
July 17, 1998 – at Seattle Mariners
Utility Player Shane Halter had played every position for the Royals except pitcher and catcher until Kansas City played the Mariners on July 17, 1998. The Royals starter, Glendon Rusch, gave up six runs in two innings. His relief pitcher, Jim Pittsley, did not fare much better, giving up five runs in 2 1/3 innings. Chris Haney was then brought in and things went from bad to worse. Haney gave up eight runs in just 2 2/3 innings pitched. Manager Tony Muser decided to bring in Halter to pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning. He was able to get second baseman Rich Amaral to hit a popup that he caught for the unassisted out. He then gave up a single to left field to shortstop Alex Rodriguez. After the base hit, Halter was able to get center fielder Charles Gipson to ground into a 6-3 double play. The Royals lost the game 5-18. Two years later, Halter repeated a feat that Kansas City Athletics shortstop Bert Campaneris did in 1965 by playing all nine positions on October 1, 2000.
July 21, 2008 – vs Detroit Tigers
A little over 10 years later, Tony Pena, Jr. became the 10th position player to pitch in a game. Starter Luke Hochevar gave up seven runs in five innings before being relieved by Rob Tejeda in the sixth inning. He did not fare much better, giving up two runs in 1 2/3 innings. Jimmy Gobble was brought into the game with two outs in the seventh inning to get the final out. What happened next is one of the worst innings by a pitcher in franchise history. Gobble gave up 10 runs in the eighth inning and only recorded two outs before being relieved by Leo Nunez (which was a fake name that he was playing under… his real name is Juan Carlos Oviedo). Nunez was able to get the final out despite giving up a double and a single. Manager Trey Hillman decided not to waste any pitchers and moved Pena from shortstop to pitcher in the top of the ninth inning. First, he was able to get left fielder Ryan Raburn to ground out to the pitcher. He then struck out catcher Ivan Rodriguez for only the third strikeout by a position player pitching in franchise history. Shortstop Edgar Renteria then flied out to David DeJesus in left field to end the inning. The Royals lost the game 4-19.
July 26, 2011 – at Boston Red Sox
Outfielder Mitch Maier became the 11th position player in franchise history to pitch in a game. Danny Duffy was starting for the Royals. He was take out of the game in the fourth inning after recording only 3 2/3 innings pitched and giving up six runs. The Royals were ahead by the score of 7-5. Nathan Adcock walked in a run with bases loaded (charged to Duffy) and he was able to get out of the inning with the Royals still in the lead. Adcock began the fifth inning, but was was replaced by Blake Wood with no outs and the Red Sox scoring two runs and taking the lead. Wood pitched two innings and gave up two runs before Tim Collins pitched one inning, giving up one run. With the bullpen exhausted, manager Ned Yost brought in Maier to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning. Maier was able to get second baseman Dustin Pedroia to fly out to Alex Gordon in left field for the first out. David Ortiz, as designated hitter, then hit a double to center field. Left fielder Carl Crawford then grounded out to Mike Aviles at second base, advancing Ortiz to third base. Catcher Jason Varitek then lined out to Maier to end the inning. The Royals rallied in the top of the ninth, scoring two runs, but it was too late. The Royals lost the game 9-13.
April 15, 2012 – vs Cleveland Indians
Mitch Maier pitched his second game in only the ninth game of the season in 2012. The game the night before went 10 innings and Kansas City had played three of their last nine games into extra innings. The Indians scored nine runs, four of which were earned, off of Royals starter Luis Mendoza in four innings. In the fifth inning, Mendoza was relieved by Jose Mijares, who gave up one run. Louis Coleman then pitched three innings, giving up two home runs and three earned runs. With the Royals down by eight runs, manager Ned Yost decided to move Maier to pitch again from center field. Catcher Lou Marson flied out to Jason Bourgeois in center field for the first out. Center fielder Michael Brantley hit a single to right field before Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. The Royals staged a rally in the ninth, scoring two runs. However, it was not enough. The Royals lost the game 7-13.
June 25, 2016 – vs Houston Astros
The latest position player in Royals history to pitch in a game was Drew Butera against the Houston Astros. The Royals were blown out the night before and the bullpen was taxed. During the second game with Houston, Royals starter Chris Young gave up seven runs in 2 1/3 innings before being relieved by Peter Moylan. Moylan was roughed up with two runs in 2 2/3 innings and Chien-Ming Wang was hit with four earned runs in three innings pitched. With Wang out of gas and manager Ned Yost not willing to use any more pitchers, it was decided that Butera would pitch the top of the ninth inning with two men on and no outs. Butera gave up a double to Jason Castro to score a run that was charged to Wang. Then, right fielder George Springer hit a foul ball that was caught by Chelsor Cuthbert at third base for the first out. Then, Butera recorded only the third strikeout in franchise history by a position player of first baseman Marwin Gonzalez. The Astros brought in pinch hitter Danny Worth who grounded out to Alcides Escobar, shortstop to first, to end the inning. The Royals lost the game 5-13.
Tavish Whiting is an American Government teacher in Lee's Summit, MO
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