Once the Houston Astros fell behind by 13 runs to the Texas Rangers in the third inning Monday night, infielder Jake Elmore figured he soon might make his major league pitching debut. He didn't count on also having to catch.
Elmore came through on both counts, subbing for four innings behind the plate and later tossing a perfect eighth inning to become, Baseball Reference says, the 14th player since at least 1936 to pitch and catch in the same game.
Elmore's effort definitely was Houston's highlight in a 16-5 loss at Rangers Ballpark. Via MLB.com, Elmore said:
"I told them I could catch two weeks ago, so maybe if the game was out of hand, why not see if I actually can catch," Elmore said. "Hopefully, I did all right."
Astros manager Bo Porter put him to work behind the plate to start the fourth inning after Carlos Corporan left the game with a possible concussion. Houston's other catcher, Jason Castro, was DHing. Once a starting DH moves to a position on defense, the team loses the DH spot for the rest of the game. Castro finally switched in the eighth in order to catch Elmore.
Position players pitching is always novel, especially when one does well. Elmore tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning, retiring Mitch Moreland (on a fly ball), Jurickson Profar (on a grounder to first, with Elmore covering the bag) and a weak roller to first by David Murphy. He threw eight of 11 pitches for strikes, hitting the low 80s on the radar gun. He was Houston's only effective pitcher among himself, starter Lucas Harrell, left-hander Wade LeBlanc and Philip Humber.
Murphy, an outfielder who pitched a scoreless inning against the Red Sox on June 4, liked what he saw from Elmore, who had made four pitching appearances in the minors, but none since 2011:
"He stayed below hitting speed and had fun," Murphy said. "He had more sink than me. He had more sink on his fastball."
"I don't know if you call it a fastball," Elmore said. "I was just throwing a little two-seamer and trying to keep it down in the zone to get ground balls."
Jeff Mathis of the Blue Jays in 2012 had been the most recent player to pitch and catch in the same game — but he's a catcher by trade. So is Rob Johnson, who also pitched and caught in the same game in 2012. It should be noted that Elmore is only the fifth player who wasn't an experienced catcher to pitch and catch in the same game, following Shane Halter, Scott Sheldon, Cesar Tovar and Bert Campaneris.
Elmore also went 1 for 2 with a single and a run scored as a batter. A pretty complete night.
"I think when any player plays out of position, it's always fun to watch and see what happens," Elmore said. "I'm glad I didn't embarrass myself."
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