A Look Back At LA Dodgers Pitchers Who Appeared At Other Positions

Eric Stephen recently took a retrospective look at position players taking the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and found that there were seven unexpected pitchers. Naturally some readers asked, "what about pitchers that took the field elsewhere?" Today we are here to answer that very question.

Pitchers taking a position on flat ground instead of on the hill turns out to be a slightly rarer occurrence, having happened in only five games in 53 years of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball, and involving only four different players. Only once did a pitcher take an infield position, only once was the event something of a lark, and each of the five games was managed by Tommy Lasorda. The Dodgers won three of these five games.

Roger McDowell

October 6, 1991 and October 1, 1991: 1 1/3 total innings in LF, no plays made.

Roger the Dodger was the last Los Angeles pitcher to take his talents to a different position and he did it twice in 1991, as if pitching 42 1/3 innings in the two months after he was acquired in a July 31 deadline deal wasn't enough of a workload. The last appearance was in the bottom of the ninth of a season-ending game in San Francisco rendered meaningless because the Atlanta Braves had clinched the Western Division the day before. McDowell in the outfield was merely the last bit of tomfoolery that included Dennis Cook getting the start, pitcher Kevin Gross as a pinch-hitter, Alfredo Griffin donning a Halloween mask and Brett Butler imitating Tommy Lasorda.

But five days earlier the games still meant something to the then first-place Dodgers and in an October 1 home game against the San Diego Padres, McDowell performed an unusual feat: making two separate appearances on the mound in the same game. After finishing the eighth inning with a comical play* in relief of starter Bobby Ojeda, McDowell took over in left-field to start the ninth inning, allowing Lasorda to bring in southpaw John Candelaria to pitch to left-hand hitting Fred McGriff.  With a two-run lead, this may have been over-maneuvering, but The Crime Dog whiffed on three pitches, bona fide left-fielder Stan Javier came in, and McDowell retook the mound to record the save.

McDowell had prior experience leaving and returning to the mound with the New York Mets. In a 14-inning game against the Reds, manager Davey Johnson had McDowell and Jesse Orosco shuttling between the bump and outfield position, with McDowell eventually collecting a win in a game I remember watching, perhaps on WOR.

Fernando Valenzuela

June 3, 1989: 2 innings at 1B, 2 put-outs.

Eric already chronicled Señor Stopper's appearance at first base within his description of the memorable "Jeff Hamilton" game in Houston. I will only add that Fernando's two put-outs were fielding a foul pop from the first batter Hamilton faced, and receiving the throw from Hamilton on a comebacker. But this was not Fernando's first time in the field, for he also took a turn in the outfield on ...

August 17, 1982: 2/3 innings in RF with 1 put-out, 1/3 in LF.

In a 21-inning game so epic that it was played over two days, clocked in at six hours and ten minutes, and featured appearances by all 25 Dodger players, Fernando made his position player debut, as a right-fielder, an event noteworthy enough that it merited a front-page photo in some editions of the Los Angeles Times.

This game was suspended by darkness at lightless Wrigley Field after 17 innings of  1-1 tie and resumed the next day, prior to the regularly scheduled game.

Lasorda was put into an awkward position after Ron Cey was ejected in the top of the 20th inning for arguing the out call made on him on a pick off at first base. With no position players remaining on the bench, Valenzuela, one of only two Dodgers remaining on the bench, took the field in right, later swapping corner OF positions with Dusty Baker whenever a left-handed hitter came up. While patrolling in RF, Fernando caught a fly-ball off the bat of one Larry Bowa, who was likely steamed that he made out to a slow-footed pitcher in the outfield.

After the Dodgers took the lead in the 21st inning with Steve Sax scoring on a controversial call by home plate umpire Eric Gregg on a sacrifice fly by Dusty Baker (the Times featured a three-frame photo showing Gregg beginning to call Sax out then switching to a safe call), Valenzuela was lifted for the fleeter-footed ...

Bob Welch

August 17, 1982: 2/3 innings in LF, 1/3 in RF, no plays made

... whose positioning imitated a marching soldier - left, right, left - as the flip-flopping with Baker continued in the outfield. Jerry Reuss capped his four-inning, winning relief appearance with a 1-2-3 inning, allowing the only outfield play of the last inning to be made by CF Ken Landreaux, and ending the only career appearance by Welch in the field. Reuss following that up by pitching the first five innings of the regularly scheduled game for August 18, picking up his second win on that calendar day as the Dodgers romped 7-4.

Bobby Castillo

September 10, 1980: 2/3 innings in LF, 2/3 in RF with 1 put-out and 1 assist, (baseball-reference.com box score)
or 1 inning in LF with no plays (Los Angeles Times report).

Bobby Castillo's place in Dodger folklore is cemented by his instruction to young Fernando Valenzuela in the techniques of throwing the screwball, but he is also the first Los Angeles Dodger pitcher to take to the field in a different position during a game, an important stretch-drive road contest versus the rival division contenders, the Houston Astros.

The baseball-reference.com box score differs from the account of the game written by beat writer Mike Littwin of the Los Angeles Times, and his follow-up the next day. The box score has Castillo entering the game and replacing CF Bobby Mitchell to begin the bottom of the 11th inning, somewhat inexplicably given that pinch-hitter Gary Thomasson, an outfielder by trade, could have simply stayed in the game at that point, after having delivered a two-RBI single. But Littwin reported that "the Dodgers were forced to use Castillo, who had injured his hand and was unable to pitch, in the outfield after Mitchell pulled a hamstring chasing Heep's double", which happened during the bottom of the 11th.

The box score also places Castillo in RF for the fly-ball double play off the bat of Enos Cabell, but Littwin stated that the Dodgers were "switching left-fielder Dusty Baker and Castillo and shifting the entire outfield toward right", which led to "Cabell hit[ting] a soft liner right at Baker, who threw out pinch runner Julio Gonzalez at the plate."

At this time, I am inclined to believe the version of the events reported by Littwin, because having Castillo enter the game to start the inning makes no strategic sense and because I find it hard to believe that the beat writer for the Times mistakenly credited Baker for an assist if a pitcher with an injured throwing hand had actually made the play. Additionally, I can believe Tommy Lasorda shifting the outfield that way for a slap-hitting Cabell with a youthful Rick Sutcliffe on the mound.

What is not in doubt is that Don Stanhouse blew a save with a two-run lead in the bottom of the 11th, that the Dodgers ran out of position players after Mitchell's injury despite playing under expanded roster rules, and that Castillo was in the outfield somewhere as "Full Pack" walked his final two batters before departing and Sutcliffe induced the double-play fly ball to right to end the inning.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, with Castillo manning left field, Jose Cruz ended the game with a walk-off blast to right field off Sutcliffe, dropping the Dodgers into a first-place tie with the Astros.

According to Littwin's articles, several Dodgers were quoted as being critical of the roster shortage. Rick Monday said in his rich baritone voice, "obviously they think the minor-league playoffs are more important than the major-league playoffs. We've needed an infielder for four weeks now", while company-man Steve Garvey noted pointedly, "it's obvious we could use some extra players, especially in an extra-inning game. That's up to [General Manager] Al Campanis."  Lasorda chimed with "you saw it out there, didn't you?" when asked if he could use a few more players. The next day, an off-day for LA, Campanis did in fact call up two more players (Jack Perconte and Vic Davalillo) as AAA Albuquerque defeated, somewhat ironically, the Tucson Astros for the PCL title.

Perhaps Sutcliffe's pitching to Cruz was altered by the presence of Castillo in LF, perhaps not. One could argue that the outcome of the game was not altered by Castillo's presence on the grass, and his spot in the batting order never had the chance to come up. And if Stanhouse doesn't yield two runs, the game is won by the Dodgers instead, so the roster problem may have been overstated.

Littwin concluded his article with this:

"But if the Dodgers fail to win the division, there may come a time when they'll look back at there two games and wonder where the season went."

Ultimately, the Dodgers and Astros would finish the 1980 regular-season tied atop the NL Western Division after the Dodgers completed a memorable sweep at home over Houston, only for the Dodgers to lose the subsequent one-game playoff, also at Dodger Stadium, so this one game where Castillo became an outfielder surely did play a large role in the outcome of the season.

A little over a year later, Castillo and Mitchell were traded together to the Twins of Minnesota for two players who never appeared in the majors for Los Angeles.

Star-divide

* With two outs and runners on second and third, McDowell fielded a comebacker, forgot that there were two outs, and unexpectedly threw to home plate. Catcher Mike Scioscia caught the ball and immediately threw to first to retire Benito Santiago. Quipped McDowell postgame:

"It was appropriate that I did it on Mickey Hatcher night," McDowell said, referring to a pregame ceremony.

Sources: the invaluable Baseball-Reference.com, the Los Angeles Times

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