August 20, 2017


The Catcher Switched to Third. Then to Second. Then Back to Third. 22 Times. (JAMES WAGNER, AUG. 17, 2017, NY Times)

An hour and a half before the Mets' 5-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night, catcher Travis d'Arnaud was told he was needed to switch positions because of an emergency. This surely came as a surprise to d'Arnaud; in his 11 years of professional baseball, he has been exclusively a catcher, save for a two-game cameo at first base five years ago in the minor leagues.

But with second baseman Jose Reyes and third baseman Wilmer Flores both scratched from Wednesday's lineup during batting practice because of sore ribs, the Mets needed d'Arnaud to handle something altogether different: He was told he would be starting at third, where he would be in the unfamiliar position of staring in at batters instead of crouching behind them.

"I was fired up," d'Arnaud said.

What he was not, understandably, was prepared. So d'Arnaud sent David Wright, the team's oft-injured third baseman, who has been rehabbing in Florida, a text message asking if he could use a glove Wright had left behind in the Mets' clubhouse. And -- oh by the way -- if he had any advice.

"Use it well," Wright wrote back. "Dive for everything. Stay low."

No one ever used players out of position better than Davey Johnson :

Mets Outlast Pirates in 18th on Error, 5-4 (MICHAEL KATZ, April 29, 1985, NY Times)

Instead, Gorman was credited with the victory after pitching seven scoreless innings in what matched the longest stint of his major league career. Lee Tunnell, the seventh Pirate pitcher, was the loser.

There was plenty to cheer, besides free chocolate sundaes, for the paying crowd of 36,423, who booed loudest for the announcement that the Yankees had named Billy Martin to replace Yogi Berra.

There were some strange sights during the intermittent rainstorms. Manager Chuck Tanner of the Pirates had all three outfielders playing just behind his four infielders when the Mets had the bases loaded and none out in the 12th.

Staub, who had not played the outfield since June 22, 1983, was shuttling between left field and right field, alternating with Hurdle, depending on the hitter, as Johnson attempted to hide the slow-footed fielder who entered the game in the 12th.

Staub saved a run in the top of the 18th. Rick Rhoden, a pitcher, pinch-hit for Doug Frobel, an outfielder, with two out and Tunnell on second base. Rhoden hit a fly ball that Staub ran down and caught below his knees near the right-field line.

''That was as fast as I could run,'' said the 41-year-old Staub.

Silver anniversary: Davey Johnson runs out of players (CHRIS JAFFE, 7/22/11, Hardball Times)

And then comes the bottom of the 10th, when all of Johnson's maneuvers seem to come crashing down on him.

When Pete Rose, appearing in one of the last games of his career, laces a pinch-hit single, young phenom Eric Davis pinch runs for him, stealing second and third. After he steals third, all hell breaks loose.

He bumps Mets third baseman Ray Knight. Unhappy, Knight decks Davis. The benches empty. When the smoke clears, Davis and Reds reliever Mario Soto are ejected for the home team, while the visiting Mets also have two men thumbed: Knight and Mitchell.

Problem: Both of them are position players still in the game. The Mets have only one position player on the bench: backup catcher Hearn. And the team has holes at third and right. Good thing Johnson didn't use Hearn as a pinch hitter a little bit ago.

Solution: Well, let's get creative. First, Carter has some experience at the infield, so put him at third. Sure, his experience is at first, but Hernandez wasn't the one ejected. (Carter did have a whole big one inning at third 11 years earlier, but that doesn't help much).

So Carter at third, and Hearn at the backstop. Who replaces Mitchell in the outfield?

Here's where Johnson gets really creative. He has a southpaw pitcher in the game right now in Orosco. And he's got a right-handed reliever he really trusts ready to go in Roger McDowell.

So let's platoon them. When Orosco is the better match-up, he'll take the mound against lefties, and McDowell will patrol the outfield. And then McDowell will face righties with Orosco in the outfield.

Johnson takes the platooning a step further. Since Orosco will face lefties, he'll put McDowell in left field where the ball is less likely to be hit. Following similar logic, Orosco will go in right field when McDowell is on the mound. Wilson will bounce around from corner to corner as need be.

Posted by at August 20, 2017 8:20 AM