The Orioles did something outside observers tend to relish in seeing Saturday, sending infielder Ryan Flaherty out to pitch the ninth inning of their rout at the hands of the Houston Astros.
Neither he nor manager Buck Showalter found much to smile about regarding the occasion after the game, though.
"I don't like it period, but what are you going to do?" Showalter said. "I started looking at options about four innings earlier because I knew we had a chance to get there."
Showalter said shortstop J.J. Hardy volunteered but was disqualified by virtue of having to play Sunday against left-hander Dallas Kuechel, and designated hitter Pedro Alvarez was also considered.
But the Orioles settled on Flaherty, who entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, was on deck to bat in bottom half of that frame when it ended, then went to the mound without warming up.
He allowed a leadoff home run — turnabout for his home run off Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur last year — and was charged with two earned runs on three hits in the 19-pitch ninth inning. Flaherty's fastball topped out at 85 MPH, according to MLB's Gameday data on Brooks Baseball, and he mixed in one off-speed among his 19 pitches. It has been initially classified as a knuckleball.
Flaherty said Showalter had mentioned it during that eighth inning, and some nerves kicked in. He hadn't pitched since high school, he said.
"Wasn't very good then, and still not," Flaherty said.
He said there was value in helping the team cope with its bullpen needs — they'd already used Odrisamer Despaigne, Donnie Hart, Mychal Givens and Brad Brach, with Vance Worley, Ubaldo Jimenez and Zach Britton not available.
"I've done it once, and that was with Chris [Davis] because we were in extra innings, and we had to and we didn't have anybody," Showalter said. "But I wasn't going to use Zach again and Brad and [Mychal] were one inning. I wasn't going to run them back out there for a second inning. I was hoping Despaigne could get us a little deeper, but he couldn't. It's a tough game to manage, because you're sitting there trying to figure out when to do a lot of things. You start mapping it out before the game starts if there's an early exit, and we were hoping we were going to have enough."
Davis was the last Orioles position player to pitch, back on May 6, 2012 in Boston. Flaherty seemed sheepish about the whole ordeal. He said it's something every position player thinks about, but as it happens, you just try to get through it healthy and without incident.
"I mean, I secretly wanted a scoreless inning, but you've got to wear it," Flaherty said. "But, yeah, after that didn't happen, try to get the inning over with."