As baseball fans, we’re lucky to have a wealth of history and statistics at our fingertips. Official stats have been kept since 1913, and we have Baseball-Reference.com and the Elias Sports Bureau to help us truly know what has happened and when. So it’s rare for something to be so unusual and unique that no one, not B-Ref or Elias or even MLB, truly knows if it’s the first time.
It’s rare, but it happens. And it happened on Monday, when outfielder Leonys Martin made his Chicago Cubs debut, but not in the outfield. He made his first-ever appearance for the Cubs as a pitcher.
Martin was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Cubs at last Thursday’s waiver trade deadline, but hadn’t yet taken the field for his new team. And when the Cubs began their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, no one could have known that Martin would step on the mound. But the game didn’t go quite the way the Cubs had planned. Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta left the game with a hamstring injury, and things went downhill from there.
The Cubs offense couldn’t get anything going, and down 8-0 in the eighth inning after less-than-stellar outings from relievers Rob Zastryzny and Dillon Maples, manager Joe Maddon didn’t want to toss any other bullpen residents onto the fire. So it was Leonys Martin’s time to shine.
And you know what? He didn’t do badly! In fact, he acted just like a pitcher. He ably covered first base on a groundout, and when he allowed a two-run homer to David Freese, he gave him an A+ pitcher stare down.
Leonys Martin stares down David Freese after Freese takes him deep. pic.twitter.com/GoktbZptQ3
— Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) September 4, 2017
Despite the homer, Martin looked capable on the bump. He was hitting 91 mph on the radar gun, and catcher Alex Avila wasn’t surprised in the least. He told Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune that Martin has a good arm. And Maddon echoed that sentiment to the Tribune as well.
“(Martin) has a good arm, a really good arm,” Maddon said. “He was throwing 90-91 mph easy without really going through other stuff.”
It wasn’t the first time Martin has pitched. The last time was 12 years ago, when he was 17 and still in Cuba. But a televised major league game is the perfect time to try it again, right? Martin tried and succeeded. He got the two outs the Cubs needed to end the eighth inning and allowed just two runs on that homer to Freese.
It’s always interesting when position players pitch, but this one is special. Martin hadn’t made his debut for the Cubs when he pitched, so he’s an outfielder who made his debut with his new team as a pitcher. And no one really seems to know if that’s happened before.
Even the Elias Sports Bureau can't tell us if OF L.Martin making his debut for his new team — but on the mound is unique. I say it is
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 4, 2017
We’ll take it!
Martin told the Tribune that he wants to try pitching again, but in a winning scenario, instead of being sent to the mound when the team is being majorly shut out. (The Cubs lost the game 12-0.) Hopefully someday that wish comes true. Make it so, Joe Maddon!
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