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A brief history of Cleveland Indians hitters being called on to pitch

Usually a sign that things have gone bad...

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Indians were beaten by the Chicago Cubs by the football score of 17-0 Wednesday night. Things got so bad that by the end the Tribe had used not one, but two position players as pitchers, with Ryan Raburn and David Murphy each putting in some work during the 9th inning.

I went back to the end of World War II, and (with the help of Baseball-Reference's Play Index, naturally) found every instance of a Tribe position player being brought in to pitch for the Indians since then. No one with 20+ career pitching performances is included, because I figure at that point they pitched enough to be counted as a two-way player.

Indians hitters pitching (1946-present)

Gary Geiger (June 11, 1958)

Geiger was a 21-year-old rookie in 1958, struggling as an outfielder when one day he was called on from the bench to pitch instead. It was something of a strange case of a position player being called on to pitch, because the Indians were only losing 5-1 when he was called on for the 7th inning, and they'd only used two relievers at that point. Perhaps Geiger had been a successful amateur pitcher, and they thought they'd see what happened. He gave up a single and then threw a wild pitch during a walk. Baltimore was then kind enough to give up an out by having Gus Triandos (of "The Wire" fame) put down a sacrifice bunt. Brooks Robinson then drove in two runs with a single. Geiger then retired five batters in a row.

Final line: 2.0 IP, 2 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 K

Rocky Colavito (August 13, 1958)

One of the greatest power hitters and most beloved players in franchise history, Colavito was brought in to pitch during the second game of a double header. The Indians were losing just 2-1 when Colavito moved from right field to the mound, and no relievers had been used. (While it was the second game of a double header, only two relievers had appeared in the first game.) Notably, the man who came in to replace Rocky in right field was Gary Geiger. Given that he'd retired the last five batters he faced in his June appearance, one would think if the Indians were going to try a position player on the mound, they'd just have used Geiger again. Strange things were happening with the 1958 Indians. Colavito entered with men already on second and third, and allowed a sacrifice flrst batter he faced, then walked a batter before retiring the next two. The Rock stayed in to pitch the 8th and 9th, and while he walked one in each of those frames, he didn't allow any hits.

Final line: 3.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 3 BB, 1 K

Mark Whiten (July 31, 1998)

Despite both position players doing pretty well from the mound in 1958, it was 40 years before the Tribe tried it again. Whiten (nicknamed Hard Hittin' and best known for once having hit four home runs in a single game) was brought in with the Tribe behind 11-2 heading into the bottom of the 8th inning. Only two relievers had been used to that point, but I guess Mike Hargrove felt like with offense at a historically high level that season, he should let a slugger see what it felt like to face MLB hitters. A walk, a double, and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, but Whiten then struck out Mike Blowers and eventual 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada. Whiten then walked in a run before catching Mike Neill looking to strike out the side.

Final line: 1.0 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 K

Tim Laker (September 2, 2001)

Laker, the Tribe's backup catcher, came into sort of game you'd expect a position player to pitch in, one the Indians trailed 19-10 going into the 8th inning. He retired the first two batters, then walked Magglio Ordonez and gave up a single to Paul Konerko before getting Jose Canseco to hit an easy grounder to first base to end the inning.

Final line: 1.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K

Tim Laker (April 20, 2004)

Laker became the first post-war Indians player to pitch in two different games when he was brought in for the 9th inning with the Indians behind 15-5. He walked Carlos Beltran and gave up a single to Mike Sweeney, then got an easy pop up and a double-play grounder to escape the inning and keep his perfect ERA intact.

Final line: 1.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 K

Andy Marte (July 29, 2010)

Marte had been one of the top prospects in baseball, but by 2010 that shine was off him. With the Tribe behind 11-1 and five relievers having already been used, Marte entered the game to pitch the 9th. He got Robinson Cano to hit a ground ball out, then struck out Nick Swisher (which wasn't quite as easy to do back then), then got an easy line out to third base for a 1-2-3 inning.

Final line: 1.0 IP, 0 R 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K

Ryan Raburn (August 8, 2013)

The Indians were down 10-2 going into the 9th inning when Raburn got his first chance to pitch in an MLB game. He needed only 13 pitches to get through a 1-2-3 inning against Detroit, something too few Tribe pitchers have been able to do in recent years.

Final line: 1.0 IP, 0 R 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K

Ryan Raburn (June 17, 2015)

The Indians trailed the Cubs 10-0 last night, and had already gone through six relievers when Terry Francona decided it was time to go to Raburn. Unfortunately, the magic from 2013 wasn't quite as strong. Raburn walked the leadoff hitter, then got an out, then gave up a single, then got an out, then said his arm felt a little off. (If the Tribe lose one of the few guys they have hitting lefties well because he suffered an injury while pitching, that'd be something.)

Final line: 0.2 IP, 2 R (0 ER), 1 H, 1 BB, 0 K

David Murphy (June 17, 2015)

Murphy became the first Indians position player since at least 1945 to come on in relief of another position player. (History!) A pop fly from the first batter he faced should have ended the inning, but Francisco Lindor could not make the play, allowing things to continue, and continue they would. A single and a walk loaded the bases. Murphy then hit a batter to score a run. Murphy then gave up the first grand slam of Kris Bryant's career before getting the out he needed on another deep fly ball.

Final line: 0.1 IP, 5 R (0 ER), 2 H, 1 BB, 0 K


The combined line from all the appearances listed above: 11.0 IP, with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP. A lot of playing with fire, but not a lot of getting burned (at least not by earned runs).

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