In his time as manager, Terry Francona has done some pretty odd things with his defense. He’s brought a position player in to pitch a few times. He even had a game where for an inning, he brought and extra infielder in, sent him back, moved him over, and brought him in again. But, this was the first time he’s thrown a pitcher into the outfield. He even, actually, had a decent reason for it.
I’ve always wondered what it took for a position player to have to pitch. It’s always during a blowout. But, at what point is it worth risking an outfielder’s injury as opposed to wearing out another reliever. In last night’s game, Francona gave up on it pretty early on. Maybe a little too early, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. So, he had emptied his bench, and was just trying to get through the final innings. I can understand not wanting to use any of the primo members of the pen. You don’t want Papelbon mopping up when you may actually need him the next night. So, Francona was giving the 8th inning to Lopez. He needed to go as long as it took to get out of the inning. There would be no lefty-right match-ups. It was Lopez until he got three outs. It just didn’t work that way.
Lopez was shelled, and kept throwing pitches, pitches, and more pitches. Finally, Francona had no choice. Lopez had to come out. But, who to put in? Not wanting to waste anyone, he decided on back-up outfielder Jonathan Van Every. Van Every was a decent choice. He’s not a key member of the team. I hate to use the word expendable, but it would fit. There’s not an enormous concern of him pulling a Canseco, and losing time to an injury. He also had a little pitching experience, having pitched almost a decade ago at Itawamba JC. So, he was a logical emergency plan. It did lead to a problem. Who was going to take his place in right? Francona had already emptied the bench. The only player left was Varitek. He certainly wasn’t going to the outfield. You could try him at first, or third maybe and move a couple players around. Or, you could just send Lopez out there. That made as much sense as anything. Pitchers do shag flies in batting practice. And, Lopez had played some in the field in college. Why not? It was just for an inning.
So, that’s how it went. Van Every walked a couple guys, but his 80 mph fastballs also recorded the outs he needed. (Sort of makes you wonder about the whole pitching thing when a guy throwing nothing but 80 mph fastballs can still get outs) The only cause for concern was a run-scoring double he gave up…to right center. I bet Francona’s heart skipped more beats than usual when he saw Lopez running after the ball. Interestingly enough, the runner on base was Lopez’s. So, he had the unique chance to make a play to save one of his own inherited runners from scoring. Would have been great if he had done it with a full-out dive. Of course, he didn’t and his ERA ballooned up accordingly.
In the end, it was a wasted game for the Sox. They happen every once in a while. I’m not sure if they could have gotten two hits if Van Every was pitching for the Rays. But, the Sox are entitled to toss up a stinker every now and then.
At least they make them entertaining.
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