How does "Tony Sipp: right fielder" grab ya'? The Houston Astros' left-handed relief pitcher was pressed into duty in right field Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, with the bullpen depth for manager Bo Porter's team waning. With menacing slugger Paul Goldschmidt batting in the eighth inning and Arizona down a run, Porter replaced Sipp with right-hander Jerome Williams. Only, instead of going to sit in the dugout or heading for the showers, Sipp went to the outfield. The move definitely brought back memories, Sipp said.
"I've been out there before, but it's been a long time since I've been out there," said Sipp, who pitched and played center field in college at Clemson in 2004. "I think I was more focused on that one out there than the rest [on the mound]."
A neat loophole in the National League rules allows for a pitcher to return to the mound after being replaced — as long as he goes to another position in the interim. It's a bit of a risky maneuver, because what if the batter hits the ball to the pitcher? It happened with Roy Oswalt of the Phillies, playing against the Astros in 2010. But it's a chance that a manager will take if his bullpen depth is weak on a given night. It might not be a move a manager would make with, say, Bartolo Colon pitching, though.
"It was a good play unless Goldy hit one to him,'' Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. ''I have seen it done before. I think I saw Lou Piniella do it in the playoffs once before. It is certainly in the rules. He's going to manage his team the way he wants to manage it. It worked out for him.''
Sipp said he was aware that Goldschmidt might try hitting to right field.
"I've seen him go that way," Sipp said. "He hits it hard to right field like a lefty pulls the ball."
Sipp had nothing to fear, though. Williams walked Goldschmidt, and Porter brought Sipp back for Miguel Montero. Alex Presley went to right field for Sipp, who struck out Montero to end the eighth. Sipp has been fantastic for the Astros as a pitcher, posting a 2.70 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings.
The Astros won 4-3. They're only 2 1/2 games behind the Rangers and from escaping the basement of the AL West. A little of that success might be Porter's innovative ways. They at least keep the 'Stros on their toes.
Sipp said Porter had warned him of the possibility of playing the outfield, but he didn't believe him until it happened.
''I didn't think it actually was going to happen,'' Sipp said. ''He gave me a warning, but I'm like, 'All right, OK, Bo.'''
That's the thing about Porter's style. You never know what Bo knows that the rest of us don't.
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