On Friday, Tommy La Stella, Victor Caratini & Ian Happ mopped up an 18-5 loss against the Cardinals.
They combined for 3.1 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs and 2 HR allowed. Most notably, Ian Happ, who pitched a scoreless 9th, was the only Cub pitcher to NOT allow a run in the game.
The trio of position player pitchers each made their first career mound appearance in the game.
On Monday night, Caratini pitched again and Anthony Rizzo (!) collected the last out (A.J. Pollock will forever be known to Cubs fans as “The Guy Anthony Rizzo Got Out”).
Caratini made it two pitching appearances in a 5-game span… something no Cubs position player could claim since Doug Dascenzo did it June 28 & July 2, 1991.
As for Rizzo… of the 29 pitchers the Cubs have used this season, only Jesse Chavez & Rizzo have not allowed any hits (though Chavez had allowed 58 of them while with the Rangers). And nobody who has ever pitched for the Cubs has hit more career home runs wearing their uniform (177) than Rizzo.
By the way, Rizzo is the first to face the first pitch and throw the last pitch for the Cubs in a game since Jon Jay last July.
Joe Maddon has not hesitated to use position players as Cubs manager. It’s a clever way to conserve bullpen arms… and hey, it’s fun!
Cubs position player pitchers used under Joe Maddon (max velocity)
David Ross on May 9 and July 26, 2015 (76.5)
Chris Denorfia on August 19, 2015 (56.5)
Miguel Montero on July 3, 2016 and May 6, 2017 (84.2)
Jon Jay on July 6, 2017 (66.2)
Leonys Martín on September 4, 2017 (91.5)
Chris Gimenez on June 23, 2018 (84.8)
Tommy La Stella on Friday (78.1)
Victor Caratini on Friday and Monday (69.7)
Ian Happ on Friday (78.8)
Anthony Rizzo on Monday (62.0)
Consider that from 1970-2014 only five position players were used on the mound, including four appearances by Doug Dascenzo.
Cubs position player pitchers used from 1970-2014
Larry Biittner July 4, 1977 (game 1 of DH)
Doug Dascenzo June 12, 1990, June 10, 1991, June 28, 1991, July 2, 1991
Gary Gaetti July 3, 1999
Joe Mather August 27, 2012
John Baker July 29, 2014 – He got the win AND scored the walkoff run. You remember it.
Just for fun, how’d they all do?
Cubs position player pitcher performance (1970-present):
Larry Biittner July 4, 1977 (game 1 of DH): 1.1 IP, 5 Hits, 6 Runs (all earned), 1 Walk, 3 Strikeouts, 3 Home Runs
1980-2014: 7 appearances 2.45 ERA in 7.1 IP, 6 Hits, 2 Runs (all earned), 4 Walks, 3 Strikeouts, 1 Home Run
2015-present: 13 appearances 6.75 ERA in 12.0 IP, 17 Hits, 9 Runs (all earned), 3 Walks, 1 Strikeout*, 4 Home Runs
*Who was it? Chris Gimenez struck out Tucker Barnhart of the Reds.
The Larry Biittner appearances deserves to be listed on its own. Not only because he was the only Cubs position player to pitch during the 1970s and 1980s, but look at it. Three strikeouts! Three home runs!
Anyway, had the Cubs ever used two, let alone three position player pitchers in a game prior to these last few games?
Yes, but the line between position player and pitcher was not as clearly defined back then as it is today. Often, players (particularly pitchers) were given one-game trials at the end of seasons in the nineteenth century into the beginning of the early 1900s when farm systems did not yet exist. Some “pitchers” resurfaced years later as position players. Several position players had pitched extensively in the minor leagues. Some made multiple pitching appearances in the Majors. Many pitchers played in the field in games they didn’t pitch. In general, things were different. So take that into consideration.
The last time the Cubs used two position player pitchers in a game…
On May 13, 1887, Harry “Shadow” Pyle made what would be the last start of his Major League career against Detroit. By the time the inning was over, Pyle was knocked out of the box and Cap Anson’s White Stockings (what the Cubs were known as back then) trailed 10-0. Left fielder Marty Sullivan came in to stop the bleeding. Right fielder Jimmy Ryan relieved Sullivan and went the rest of the way. It was Sullivan’s lone career Major League game on the mound while Ryan made 24 career pitching appearances, including 8 in 1887. He even made five career starts. Ryan was best known as an outfielder, and he had a long productive Major League career, collecting 2,513 hits along the way.
How about three?
The White Stockings suffered a 20-9 defeat on June 16, 1884 against Pud Galvin and the Buffalo Bisons. Larry Corcoran had to leave the game after four innings due to a sore hand. He’d be fine. The team played 113 games and Corcoran started 59 of them. Besides, he tossed his third career no-hitter just eleven days later. Corcoran moved to shortstop for the duration of the game (rosters were much smaller back then). The mound work for the remainder of the game was done by three members of the starting infield – third baseman Ned Williamson, shortstop (and future Hall of Famer) Mike Kelly (later known as “King” Kelly) and second baseman Fred Pfeffer. Again, as far as I can tell, this is the last time the Cubs used three position player pitchers in a game.
In any event, the Cubs have used multiple position players twice in the last five games.
And they hadn’t done AT ALL since the 19th century.