Yanks use Swisher to save bullpen
First baseman/outfielder pitches eighth inning vs. Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Nick Swisher went into the stretch, leaning in and looking for the sign. There wasn't one, but he shook it off anyway.
There were light moments late in the Yankees' 15-5 drubbing at the hands of the Rays on Monday, as Swisher volunteered to pitch the eighth inning to save New York's bullpen. He got the job done, hurling a scoreless frame with a strikeout.
"When I took the mound, I wanted to try to compete, even though I'm pumping 78 [mph] or whatever it was," Swisher said. "I felt that I wanted to go out there and get three outs. I had fun with it. I mean, when am I ever going to have the chance to do that again? Probably never."
"The way Swish has been playing, is anyone surprised that he didn't give up any runs?" Derek Jeter said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi found himself handicapped after starter Chien-Ming Wang recorded only three outs and New York trailed by 10 runs after three innings.
Girardi explained that Jose Veras had pitched four out of five days and that Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte and Mariano Rivera were off limits as well, so he went searching for a willing arm. That happened to be Swisher, who also belted a home run in the fourth inning as the starting first baseman.
"I figured he wouldn't overthrow," Girardi said. "He's kind of got that relaxing personality, and we talked to him. That was our choice."
Swisher said he had last pitched as a freshman at Parkersburg High School in West Virginia, where the hitters punished him more than they would on Monday.
"They asked me if I'd ever pitched before, and I said, 'Yeah,'" Swisher said. "I went to go grab my glove and had to take off my wristbands. I just really tried to laugh it off in a situation like that. We know we didn't play very well today, but you've got to find something to laugh about in that moment. I just happened to be the guy everyone was laughing at."
Catcher Jose Molina expected nothing but four-seam fastballs, so he never bothered to put down a sign. Fighting back a smirk, Swisher committed a cardinal sin by walking the leadoff man, B.J. Upton, on a full-count pitch.
Moving to the set, Willy Aybar followed with a base hit past the dive of third baseman Cody Ransom, and Swisher gave Ransom some good-natured razzing as he waited for the ball to be returned to the infield.
With runners at first and second, Swisher snuck a 78-mph fastball past Gabe Kapler swinging for his first -- and probably last -- Major League strikeout, sending the baseball to the dugout for a souvenir.
Carlos Pena popped up on a 1-0 pitch to the right side of the infield for the second out, and Pat Burrell flied out to left on a full-count offering to retire the side.
"Those guys are tremendous players," Swisher said. "The scariest part about it was saying to myself, 'Try not to leave it over the middle of the plate, because I don't want to get one hit right back in my face.'"
In all, Swisher threw 22 pitches [12 for strikes], maxing out at 80 mph on the last pitch he threw.
"I'm walking out of my professional career with a 0.00 ERA," Swisher said.
While many of the Yankees found amusement in Swisher's outing, not everyone was pleased. Jorge Posada -- who moved to first base to replace Swisher -- was pointed on that topic.
"Nobody was laughing," Posada said. "I think today was embarrassing, and it's just one of those days that everything went for them and nothing went for us. We didn't pitch, we didn't do the things we were supposed to do."
But Jeter was more forgiving, recalling that Wade Boggs had also pitched on Aug. 19, 1997, against the Angels, the last position player to do it for the Yankees before Swisher. As Jeter said, some days you'll blow out teams and other days you'll get blown out.
"You get a chuckle out of it just because it's him, and he's not going to stop talking about it," Jeter said. "I guess that's the only way you can look at it. It doesn't look good and it doesn't feel good when you get beat by that many runs, but if you're going to make light of the situation in any way, who better than Swish?"
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.