The Yankees had to play a pitcher at first base and it did not end well

The New York Yankees played an extremely eventful series against the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend. On Friday, they came back from a 9-1 deficit to win 14-11 in 10 innings. On Saturday, they pounded the Orioles for 12 runs and won 12-4. Sunday’s game wasn’t as high-scoring as the previous two contests, but as far is intrigue and weirdness, it did not disappoint. And that’s because reliever Bryan Mitchell had to play first base.

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Here’s the really weird part: Mitchell pitched in one inning, played first base in the next inning, and then pitched again in the inning after that.

That’s not normal, and we probably shouldn’t expect to see it again anytime soon. It only happened because the Yankees were shorthanded in the bullpen. Mitchell did his normal job, which is pitching in relief, in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game. The Yankees were down by two runs, and if they hadn’t tied the game in the ninth, Mitchell wouldn’t have stepped near first base. But they did, so as he told’s Randy Miller, manager Joe Girardi had to get weird.

“We were short on pitchers,” Girardi said. “So I knew I had to do something a little unorthodox.”

With the game headed into the tenth inning with the score tied 4-4, Girardi wanted to use closer Aroldis Chapman. But with Chapman limited to just one inning and no one left in the bullpen, he had to find a way to keep Mitchell eligible to pitch if the game went beyond the 10th. And the way to do that? Have him play first base while Chapman was pitching the 10th, and then Mitchell could take the mound again in the 11th.

New York Yankees relief pitcher Bryan Mitchell plays first base during the 10th inning of the baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium, Sunday, April 30, 2017, in New York. The Orioles defeated the Yankees in extra innings 7-4. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Bryan Mitchell playing first base. (AP Photo)

In one sense, the idea worked, because the Yankees didn’t run out of pitchers. But in another, realer way, the whole thing ended up being a disaster. According to Miller, Mitchell hadn’t played first base since high school. And after years on the pitching mound, he was a little rusty. The first Orioles batter of the 10th inning, Welington Castillo, hit a foul pop-up right in front of first base, and Mitchell just missed it. Castillo would end up hitting a single, but Mitchell got a chance to redeem himself. When Jonathan Schoop popped the ball up, Mitchell caught it without incident.

The Yankees didn’t score in the bottom of the 10th, so when the 11th inning began, Mitchell had abandoned first base and was on the mound again. And he almost made it out of the inning unscathed. He got two outs with just a single sandwiched between them, and could see the end in sight. Unfortunately, that’s when everything started to go wrong. Mitchell intentionally walked Manny Machado, but gave up two straight singles right after. Three runs would score, and the Yankees lost 7-4 when they couldn’t answer back in the bottom of the inning.

Even though the late-innings Mitchell experiment didn’t go very well, at the very least he got to make a little bit of history.

And he made some interesting Yankees history as well.

The Yankees’ PR department is tossing off that date pretty nonchalantly, but you might know that game better as the Pine Tar Game. And while it was originally played on July 24, Ron Guidry didn’t play center until the game was resumed on Aug. 18, 1983.

Despite the history, something tells me both Girardi and Mitchell are hoping something like this doesn’t happen again.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher