Orioles right-hander Yovani Gallardo was one of baseball's best-hitting pitchers during his seven years in the National League playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, but the opportunity to show off his skills at the plate haven't come very often over the past two years in the American League.
With the Orioles playing interleague games in a National League park this week in San Diego, pitchers will hit and Gallardo will have his first chance to swing the bat during his start against the Padres on Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park.
Gallardo's 12 homers are second-most by an active pitcher -- San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner has 13 -- and that total includes four homers in his 2010 All-Star season. Gallardo hit at least one homer in five straight seasons from 2009 to 2013. Gallardo said hitting is something he not only enjoys, but takes pride in helping his own cause at the plate.
"I think playing in the National League for those seven years, you have to," Gallardo said before Tuesday's series opener in San Diego. "You can change the outcome of a game, whether it be getting a hit and run … you're part of the offense, which I think is very important. You can help yourself out in any situation. And these interleague games it's a little bit different because you don't swing the bat as often as you do in the National League, but it's all the same thing. At the end of the day you really want to do everything you can to help yourself out and give your team a win."
Last season pitching for the Texas Rangers, Gallardo had just four at-bats, but recorded two hits. He said he swung a bat last week for the first time since last Sept. 1, when the Rangers played in San Diego. He was 1-for-2 with a double in that game.
"The last time I did it was here actually," Gallardo said. "It's definitely different. It's like anything. You have to work on it and work your way into it. It's not like you can't take any hacks and pick up a bat and hit a 97-mph fastball, especially for a pitcher. It's not easy. But I'm going to try to do the most I can. I think it helps that I was in the National League for seven years. I've done it before quite a bit, so it's just a matter of whatever I have to do, I'm going to try to go out there to do."
The Orioles also know how good of a hitter Gallardo is. He hit a pinch-hit walk-off double to beat the Orioles on May 27, 2014 in Milwaukee. In that game, manager Buck Showalter walked former Oriole Mark Reynolds to face Gallardo, who was pinch hitting for the pitcher because the Brewers had no position players remaining. Gallardo then hit a 2-0 pitch from T.J. McFarland into the left-center field gap to score Reynolds.
"Buck actually mentioned it in spring training," Gallardo said. "He said obviously he was kind of surprised with the way I was able to swing the bat. It's just that we did it so much in the National League, so eventually you're going to get comfortable because you work on it quite a bit. Now, we just laugh about it. T.J. probably still doesn't, but we joke around every now and then about it. But now we're on the same side so we don't have to worry about that. … That's how this game is and that's how the National League is. That's how it works. You just have to be able to handle the bat somewhat."