Interesting comments and digs. The most awesome hitting pitcher I ever saw was former Red Sox pitcher Earl Wilson. They traded him to Detroit for Don Demeter, who wasn't nearly as fierce a hitter.
Every pitcher has a hitting story
By Bob Ryan, Globe Staff | April 14, 2006
Breaking News Alerts Who knew Bronson Arroyo was a hitter, and not only a hitter but a bonafide sluggah?
''He still isn't," says Curt Schilling (career: BA .150., OBP .176, slugging pct. .169, 2Bs 13, 3Bs 1, HRs 0, RBIs 29). ''But you have to say there's consistency in his swing."
And what can we say about Cubs lefthander Glendon Rusch, the man who has given up both of Arroyo's home runs, both on the type of same down-and-in pitch? Is it possible Ralph Waldo Emerson was time-channeling Glendon Rusch when he observed, ''A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?"
Tim Wakefield (career: BA .130, OBP .158, slugging pct. .185, 2Bs 2, 3Bs 0, HRs 1, RBIs 4) just shakes his head when he thinks of Arroyo going deep twice against Rusch in the first week of the season. ''That's owning somebody," he says. ''And being owned."
Matt Clement (career: BA .093, OBP .137, slugging pct. .113, 2Bs 5, 3Bs 1, HRs 0, RBIs 12) may be less shocked than his teammates. ''[Arroyo] had his first career hit off me," Clement reports. ''Then I think he was something like 4 for 55 with 33 Ks before he hit that first home run."
David Wells (career: BA .117, OBP .145, slugging pct. .125, 2Bs 1, 3Bs 0, HRs 0, RBIs 4) gets right to the point. ''Maybe [Rusch] thought it was a fluke," Wells observes. ''But I can promise you pitchers will think twice."
Pitchers who can actually hit is not a topic that occupies much thought in the American League, which has been playing its own brand of baseball since 1973. But there are those interleague games, there is the World Series, and it just so happens that each of the aforementioned Red Sox pitchers has National League experience. So they've all got their hitting tales.
Schilling, for example, claims he can't remember much about his one career triple, but he does recall his one near-homer. ''My first at-bat as a Diamondback," he says. ''We were in Florida and I thought I really crushed it. As I was running toward first I saw that it hit the top of that clock out there in left. I rounded first and I stumbled. I made it to second and started toward third and I stumbled again, so I went back to second."
It gets better.
''And then," he concludes, ''I got picked off."
Wakefield is the only one of the bunch who actually has a major league homer. ''I hit it off Mark Portugal in the Astrodome," he explains. ''You have the left-field bleachers, the mezzanine, and the upper deck. I hit it into the mezzanine. I think they measured it at 420 [feet]."
''They sent me out the next day," he reports. ''I think I had gone 4 2/3 innings, giving up two runs, and they pulled me from the game. I guess they knew they were sending me out and didn't want me to get the win."
Wakefield had been signed as a first baseman/outfielder by the Pirates after establishing the career home run record at Florida Tech. Even after his inability to hit minor league pitching led to his becoming as pitcher, people assumed he could hit. So when interleague play began, pitchers treated him with respect.
''I was getting changeups, sliders, all that stuff," he says. ''Then they began to realize that wasn't necessary."
To no one's surprise, Wells is typically blunt in assessing his batting prowess. ''I suck," he declares.
Ah, but he'll always have that double.
''Hit it off Carlos Zambrano," he says. ''Opposite field. Hit it over Moises Alou's head. A little more, and it would have been gone. I smoked it."
Wait. What about that RBI single last year against the Phillies?
''A single off [Brett] Myers in Philadelphia," he says. ''It was a million degrees out there that day. We both sucked."
In general, however, Wells has little use for hitting. ''I don't even bother to take BP anymore," he says. ''Haven't taken it in three years."
Take another look at Clement's numbers. Terry Francona won't be using him as a pinch hitter any time soon. But he did have one golden moment.
''The triple" he admits, ''should have been an inside-the-park home run."
''My rookie year with the Padres," Clement explains. ''We were in Pittsburgh, and I hit a line drive to center. Adrian Brown made a dive for it and whiffed completely. The ball rolled all the way to the wall. I wasn't thinking inside-the-park. I basically walked to third base. It was a hot day, and I'm a rookie and I'm just worried about staying up in the big leagues. I was more worried about my pitching and conserving energy than getting an inside-the-park home run.
''The veterans killed me," he continues. ''Dave Magadan and Tony Gwynn wouldn't let me up. I finally said to Gwynn, 'When I finally hit one, you'll be the first one I call.' I'm still waiting for that home run, and I wish I had kept going."
One thing you learn when you talk to these guys is just how truly different the leagues are, and how much of it has to do with the designated hitter.
''It makes such a difference when you don't have to worry about batting," says Schilling. ''So much of what I do is preparation. Over here, I can concentrate on my job when I'm in the dugout. In the National League you've got to be conscious about your place in the lineup, and when you do get up you want to be an asset. Pretty much, you're thinking about bunting."
The last thing you want to do, of course, is give up a big hit, let alone a homer, to a pithcer. ''It's not something I can even joke about," says Schilling. ''It's something I take very seriously. It's nothing I would find amusing."
Arroyo's former teammates say his batting life will be different from now on. ''I don't expect them to treat him like a [Mike] Hampton," says Clement, referring to baseball's most noted hitting pitcher over the last decade. ''But when they have the pitchers' meeting now they will be saying, 'Let's not get careless with this guy.' "
Francona says, yes, Arroyo has those two home runs against Rusch, but let's not get carried away. ''It's hilarious," he says. ''He'll swing in the same spot the next time he faces him and the ball won't be there."
But Bronson Arroyo will go to his grave with those two homers. Pitchers have got to seize those hitting moments when they present themselves.
Clement knows. If he could only have a do-over from the moment he rounded second.