ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Danny Valencia had been waiting a long time for a chance to pitch in the major leagues, and he wasn’t too proud to beg.
He was lobbying manager Buck Showalter for an inning or two as soon as it became apparent the Orioles needed to conserve some relief innings in a game that had gotten totally out of hand.
“I asked him,” Valencia said. “I was like, ‘Hey, Buck, I just want to let you know, if you need an inning, I got you. Don’t hesitate to ask.’ Just let him know. Some guys don’t want to do it. Help the team, help the bullpen. I made it known early that I’d be willing to throw an inning, two innings if you need it. It went well today.”
Showalter hates using position players to pitch. Just a week ago, he was lamenting the fact that Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash had to use two position players in an inning against the Orioles.
Valencia got his wish. He entered Thursday night’s 17-8 loss to the Texas Rangers and faced slugger Joey Gallo, who had hit his 27th home run earlier in the game. The at-bat went to a full count, with Valencia getting a swinging second strike on a changeup and also clocking 91 mph on a fastball out of the strike zone.
The final pitch of the at-bat was an 89-mph fastball that appeared to be a few inches out of the zone, but umpire Bruce Dreckman called it a strike and got an earful from Gallo.
Later, Valencia told reporters that “there was more in the tank” and that he was “probably pitching around 80 percent.”
“You always dream about doing that,” he said, “but at the same time, Buck came out there and he said, ‘Hey, you know, throw strikes. Don’t try to overpower anybody,’ so I was just really trying to throw it over the plate, not really go max effort out there, just let it go nice and easy. My arm felt pretty good out there.”
Showalter said Valencia wasn’t the only guy who was willing to take the mound.
“You know [Mark Trumbo] wanted to do it,” he said. “Trumb started as a pitcher. It’s so hard picking who. I know Danny is not going to start until the day after tomorrow. So, you know, I felt like his arm would be OK. Tough decision. Tough call. I don’t like doing it at all.”
The last Orioles position player to pitch in a major league game was Ryan Flaherty, who faced the Houston Astros on Aug. 20, 2016. He allowed two runs on three hits in one inning.
The most famous instance of a position player pitching for the Orioles in recent years came in 2012, when Chris Davis was summoned to pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the 16th and 17th innings on May 6, 2012, at Fenway Park.
Davis pitched two shutout innings and displayed a low-90s fastball and a controllable slider. With two runners and no one out in the 17th inning, he struck out Adrián González and got former Oriole Darnell McDonald to hit into a game-ending double play.
That game was the first real hint that something magical might be happening in 2012. The Orioles were coming off 14 straight losing seasons and were supposed to be headed for another one, but they earned a wild-card berth and reached the Division Series.
Davis has long insisted he’ll sit on his 1-0 record and 0.00 ERA.
Valencia didn’t sound like a guy who had gotten his fill. He said he didn’t go out there just to throw over the plate.
“I’m thinking I’m trying to strike him out,’’ he said. “Just me being competitive. I’m not one of those guys who just lob it over the plate and let them hit it. If he’s going to beat me, he’s going to beat me with my stuff.”