Being forced to use a position player to pitch in a game that's way out of hand in order to save a team's bullpen happens now and again. Not so much at the Double-A level as it does in Triple-A, yet that was the situation the Aeros faced Monday night in a blowout loss to Bowie.
With Aeros pitchers combining to give up a season-high 20 hits (starter Eric DuBose was guilty for 12), Aeros outfielder Nathan Panther came on to pitch the eighth and ninth innings.
Usually, the results aren't pretty when a position player takes the mound. But Panther wasn't only servicable, he was pertty darn good. Really, he was.
Panther allowed just a harmless single and walk in the two innings, and looked like a pitcher while doing it.
"He's the only pitcher we had to go two straight innings without giving up a run,'' Aeros manager Tim Bogar correctly pointed out.
Bogar was as impressed as anyone after Panther's pitching debut in Akron (he owns a save from his time with Class-A Kinston earlier in the season), figuring he couldn't go wrong with a guy who could throw a curveball, changeup and fastball for strikes - even if he is listed as an outfielder.
Turns out Panther was a pitcher at Muscatine Community College before being drafted by the Indians in the 15th round of the of the 2002 draft. So, what's to keep Panther stuck on the bench as a fourth outfielder when right now he's probably more needed in the Aeros starting rotation?
"I guess I could call (Indians minor league pitching coordinator) Dave (Miller) and ask if (Panther) could stay,'' Bogar said.
Given the current state of the team, It was hard to tell if Bogar was joking or not.