Orioles manager Brandon Hyde talks about the Orioles loss to the New York Yankees and the play of Orioles second baseman Hanser Alberto. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimroe Sun video)
Before Sunday’s eighth inning, as Orioles manager Brandon Hyde mapped out what was already a blowout against the New York Yankees and the games to come, he approached infielder Hanser Alberto about the possibility of pitching later in the game.
“No problem,” Alberto told him.
But when Hyde told Alberto it was time to take the ball with the Orioles down 10 in what became a 15-3 loss to the Yankees at Camden Yards, Alberto looked surprised.
“When I went out there, I think he was a little taken aback,” Hyde said. “He didn’t know if I was kidding or not.”
With an 0-for-4 performance Sunday, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis’ hitless drought dating to last season reached 44 at-bats, two shy of the major league record for a non-pitcher that Eugenio Velez set between the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Alberto’s line — two runs in one inning on two walks, a hit batter and a home run — lined up with much of what Hyde otherwise sent to the mound on a day the Yankees sent seven balls into the outfield seats. Most of his pitches, including the 67.3 mph one New York’s Austin Romine homered on, were tracked as curveballs, but Alberto, who said he had never pitched before Sunday, clarified afterward.
Alberto, who the Orioles claimed on waivers, designated for assignment and claimed again this offseason, became the 10th position player ever to pitch for the Orioles. He hit Gio Urshela before Romine’s home run, then walked Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman. Then, Alberto got Luke Voit to ground out and Gary Sánchez, pursuing his fourth home run of the game, to fly out. Gleyber Torres flew out to end the inning.
Hyde said he and pitching coach Doug Brocail had discussed which position player the team would use on the mound if needed.
“We talked about it before, just in case something like this does happen,” Hyde said. “Unfortunately, it happened second week of the season.
“There’s a lot of guys I didn’t want to pitch. Hanser picked us up big time by getting the last three outs.”
Alberto’s contributions certainly haven’t come only on the mound. He broke up New York right-hander Domingo German’s no-hit bid with a sixth-inning single. He’s hit safely in the five games he’s received an at-bat and is hitting .500.
“The energy he has is infectious,” Hyde said. “He’s an unbelievable teammate. He grinds out at-bats. He puts the ball in play, makes the plays defensively. We’re turning a lot of double plays. He’s been a part of a lot of them. I’m so impressed with how he’s playing. It’s awesome to have him on the club.”