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07/26/11 1:00 AM ET
Twins send first baseman Cuddyer to mound
By Louie Horvath / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- With Monday's series opener against the Rangers out of hand at Rangers Ballpark, the Twins brought in first baseman Michael Cuddyer to pitch in the eighth inning of a 20-6 blowout. Amazingly, he fared better than most of the Twins' full-time pitchers. Cuddyer pitched a scoreless frame, loading the bases but wiggling out of danger by getting two fly balls to end the inning. Of the other five pitchers to take the mound for the Twins, only Phil Dumatrait could claim to have held the Rangers scoreless. "Cuddyer out there is a nightmare, but we had to put somebody out there, and he would have killed me if I put anyone else out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That was the one goal of his career was to pitch, so he pitched. I was scared to death to watch the guy do it, but he threw it, he had a big smile on his face, and we just had to get through it somehow." Cuddyer became the first Twins position player to pitch since first baseman John Moses, who took the mound in two games during the 1990 season, the last coming on July 31 against the California Angels. "For years I've been lobbying, and Gardy came up to me in the sixth and said, 'How mad would you be right now if I put [center fielder Trevor] Plouffe in to pitch?'" Cuddyer said. "I was like, 'It's your team, but I'd be hot.' It worked out. [Jason] Kubel hit the home run when I was on base, so I got to come in and actually run down to the bullpen real quick to get some throws in." Cuddyer touched 88 mph with his fastball, but he was a little wild, missing the strike zone by multiple feet on several occasions. Now that Cuddyer has pitched, there are only two positions on the diamond that Cuddyer has not played in the Major Leagues. He has not played catcher or shortstop. Cuddyer is quick to point out, however, that he came through the Minors as a shortstop, so the only position he hasn't played professionally is catcher. "I take pride in being a baseball player, and giving Gardy flexibility in the lineup," Cuddyer said. "This is probably going to be the last time I get on the mound, so it was fun." Rangers manager Ron Washington said it was admirable how he stepped up to save the bullpen in a game that was all but over after the first five innings. "I know from throwing batting practice his legs took a beating," Washington said. "But Mike is a team player. He went out there and fought and got the three outs they needed. He had bases loaded with one out and didn't give up a run." Gardenhire reaffirmed that, saying that only three bullpen members would be available for Tuesday's game against the Rangers. "It's not a situation you want to get yourself into, but we've used all of our pitchers," Gardenhire said. "We have three guys left for tomorrow's ballgame. [Matt] Capps, [Joe] Nathan and [Glen] Perkins. Hopefully we'll be able to use them in the right situation at the end of the game. That's a horrible performance." Cuddyer danced out of danger, stranding the bases loaded with one out in the eighth. Mike Napoli led off with a double, but had to hold up on Mitch Moreland's single. Both moved up a base on Endy Chavez's groundout. Ian Kinsler walked to load the bases. From there, Cuddyer got Elvis Andrus to fly out to left, and David Murphy to pop up to shortstop to end the Rangers' threat. "I got some luck," Cuddyer said. "I got a ball to shallow left that Plouffe made a good throw and they couldn't tag on. Joe made a good play at first, and I ended the inning on a popup. It was fun. I had a good time, and fortunately I kept the ball in the ballpark."
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.