There are a lot of good baseball reasons for throwing a position player out on the mound in the late innings of a blowout.
When Mike Tauchman faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in the ninth inning on Saturday night, he saved a few bullets for a reliever, likely keeping Jay Jackson from pitching a third time in four days. Tauchman also brought some levity to a second straight disappointing performance by the Giants, allowing the dugout to smile a bit and more easily move on to Sunday.
But as manager Gabe Kapler discussed the decision the next morning, he said there's something else at play.
Kapler was glad the staff got to let Tauchman pitch in part because he has been in similar shoes. When Kapler was an outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, manager Terry Francona thought he might need to put a position player on the mound in a blowout in Oakland and sent Kapler to to warm up. The Red Sox ended up getting out of the inning before Kapler was needed.
"Francona had me go down to the bullpen, which I was very nervous about. I would have loved to have had that experience," Kapler said. "It's a life-changing experience, it's a story that you tell your family forever, and I'm glad that Tauchman got to experience that. I would love as many of our players to have that experience at some point in our career as possible.
"Craw jokes around about wanting that. Everybody wants it. Everybody wants to try it."
Kapler recalled having a dry mouth and a hard time reaching the catcher as he warmed up because he was so nervous. Tauchman experienced something similar, but got through a quick inning, allowing just one run.
"I came set and I was like, my hand was shaking pretty good," Tauchman said on Saturday. "I was pretty nervous about just the first pitch and I was like, I think if I lob it, I'll either not get it to home or throw it 10 feet over his head and I don't want to start thinking about what the bench would be like."
The bench ended up enjoying the show. Tauchman brought smiles to teammates' faces and the coaching staff appreciated his pace and the fact he wasn't over-throwing, risking injury.
Tauchman joined Darin Ruf and Tyler Heineman as position players who have pitched during Kapler's two seasons in charge. The Giants don't want to be in that position often -- you're getting blown out when this happens -- but Kapler won't hesitate to let others try if the timing is right.
Kapler knows it can help the team in a lot of ways and be memorable for the guy who gets to pitch. He also knows it can be memorable for others, for all the wrong reasons.
"I struck out against Nick Swisher," Kapler said, smiling. "Swisher was on the mound, I was playing in Tampa, and it was just like, a really bad strikeout. I had no chance.
"It was the most uncomfortable thing that I had ever done."