Yonder Alonso should consider changing his name to Wander Alonso after what he was asked to do for the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night.
A first baseman (and occasional outfielder) by trade, Alonso went from first base to second to third and back to second in the ninth inning of a strange but memorable 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had a chance to keep the odyssey of musical positions going into extra innings, but Alonso flied out with two runners aboard against Dodgers closer Brandon League to end the game.
The defensive switching was like nothing Alonso had done, and probably seen, before.
"Hopefully we won't have to do it too often," Alonso told Fox Sports San Diego after the game.
Padres manager Bud Black found himself a little short of infielders because of injuries and certain tactics — notably pulling Alexi Amarista, the starting second baseman, for pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay (yes, he's still playing) in the eighth. Rather than shifting rookie Jedd Gyorko to second base, where he has some experience, and moving Alonso to third, where he's logged a whole nine innings in the majors, Black put Alonso at second for the first time in his professional career. Alonso implied that his experience at second base consisted of messing around during batting practice.
Hey, defense is defense, right? Even if you're 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, as Alonso is listed. So he traded his first baseman's mitt for a regular glove and scooted to his right. Only, Black wasn't done. Instead, he mixed and matched, pulling strings on his players like they were marionettes.
You stay versatile, San Diego!
"We felt that was the thing we had to do to give us a chance to win. Desperate times sort of require desperate measures," Black told reporters.
With one out and a runner at first, left-handed slugger Adrian Gonzalez dug in against Padres lefty Joe Thatcher. Black gambled that Gonzalez wouldn't pull the ball near Alonso; he's been going to the opposite field a lot, Black said, and Thatcher is tough for lefties to pull.
Naturally, he did pull it, with Alonso making a game, six-step dash and dive after the ball, which rolled into right field. All Alonso got was dirty. He called his attempt at the grounder "a never-ending run."
Baseball is fun!
With another left-hander, Andre Ethier, coming up with a possible double play still in order, Black decided to move Alonso to third in case someone needed to make a double-play pivot at second. Ethier was hit by a pitch to load the bases and make Black's tactic moot.
If you're scoring at home, please just give up.
Alonso moved back to second against Luis Cruz and A.J. Ellis to finish the inning, and the ball didn't find him again. Gyorko made a 5-3 putout on Ellis to strand three runners. Phew. It all worked out; the Dodgers didn't score and Alonso lived to tell the tale. If only he could have come through in the ninth to tie the score. He could have traded places with Gyorko all night long.