TRENTON, NJ – This past Friday, in a game the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees Double-A affiliate, won 5-4 over the Akron Rubber Ducks, a rarity occurred.
Infielder Dan Fiorito, who pitched collegiately at Manhattanville College, and outfielder Taylor Dugas, who last pitched in high school. threw a combined 3.1 scoreless innings in what turned out to be an 18-inning victory for the Thunder.
“Hey, I’ll do whatever the manager asks,” said Fiorito, 24, one of the nicest guys one would ever want to meet. “If Al (Pedrique) needs me to pitch, I’m out there. I have a few pitches.
“I can’t see us making a habit of it.”
When it was suggested to Pedrique he had an emergency rotation in his clubhouse – shortstop Cito Culver and outfielder Jake Cave also pitched, rather well, in high school – he chuckled.
“No, you won’t ever see Cito or Jake pitch,” said Pedrique, who sent star prospect Luis Severino to the mound Tuesday night vs. the Erie SeaWolves. “That definitely is not in the plan for either.”
The Yankees quickly replaced two pitchers on the Thunder roster Tuesday, as right-hander Taylor Garrison and left-hander Caleb Smith both went to the disabled list, with side and left-hand injuries, respectively, bringing right-hander Joel De La Cruz down from Scranton and right-hander Chris Smith up from Class-A Tampa.
So, Fiorito and Dugas will almost certainly not see the mound again any time soon.
“I can’t keep up with those fireballers Cave and Culver anyway,” said Fiorito with a chuckle.
Cave actually was a highly thought-of lefty back in his high-school days in Hampton, Va. Several teams were drawn to him as a pitcher, mainly because he displayed a 94 mph fastball that moved. The Yankees liked him as an outfielder and took him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. After some leg-injury issues that caused him to miss the entire 2012 season, Cave is playing well in Trenton, batting .284 (25-for-88) with an on-base percentage of .394 and OPS of .792.
“Yeah, I had some pitching success and got some attention in high school,” said Cave with a smile.
But some scouts considering him as a pitcher back in 2011 was no passing fancy.
“Cave is a good athlete with a lot of tools,” said a scout from a National League team. “There are a lot us who like him as an improving player with talent now.”
Culver also showed pitching prowess at Irondequoit High, in a suburb of Rochester. The Yankees made him their first-round pick in 2010 on the strength of his fielding and gave him a $954,000 bonus that eclipsed a commitment to the University of Maryland. Culver’s fielding is spectacular, his batting average not.
When a team runs out of pitchers in a marathon game, position players can make an appearance on the mound. Like anything unusual, it’s a novelty that naturally draws attention. It is strictly an emergency move.
“Those guys are position players first,” said Pedrique. “Pitching two in an unusual game, like we did under unusual circumstanses, is rare.”
The Thunder clubhouse had fun with their teammates towing the rubber. Dugas got the win in the marathon. Just don’t expect to see it too often.