With the Mets having lumbered through a disastrous 11-run fifth inning Friday night, Terry Collins told outfielder Mike Baxter to be prepared to enter Friday night's game after Bobby Parnell to spare the rest of the bullpen.
New York Mets
So when Collins came to the mound in the bottom of the eighth to remove Parnell to limit his pitch count and keep him available for Saturday, Baxter jogged in from left field toward the mound. He reached as far as the infield dirt before finally being alerted by center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to get back in the outfield.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen subsequently had told Collins that southpaw Tim Byrdak needed work, so Baxter's services, it turned out, were not needed after all. Byrdak recorded the final two outs of the eighth in the eventual 18-9 defeat.
Position players often relish the opportunity to pitch. Jeff Francoeur frequently spoke about his desire to do so while with the Mets. And Collins said Jose Reyes even told him last year during a late pitching change, "I can throw hard," while requesting a chance to close. But Baxter said he was not eager to pitch. He had not done so since Little League, although he did warm up in the bullpen last year once under similar circumstances with the Mets.
"I touched dirt, and Nieuwy was calling me back frantically," Baxter said about reaching the infield before doing an about-face Friday.
As for his arsenal, Baxter added: "There's only one pitch coming. It's not fast. Straight."
Gary Cohen recalled Desi Relaford as perhaps the Mets' best position-player-turned pitcher. Pressed into a May 17, 2001 game against the San Diego Padres, Relaford produced a 1-2-3 inning with one strikeout while registering in the low 90s.