Jamey Carroll: Veteran Utility Infielder or Middle Reliever?
On Monday night during the Kansas City Royals’ thrashing of the Minnesota Twins, an interesting occurrence happened that made the 13-0 defeat seem a little less negative and a bit more interesting. Jamey Carroll, who has been a journeyman infielder for the majority of his career, got the opportunity to pitch an inning of relief for the Twins due to the score of the game and the decision by the manager to rest as much of the bullpen as possible. If you haven’t seen the video, you can check it out by clicking here.
If you have watched Carroll play during his tenure with the Twins, arm-strength isn’t one of the first things that come to mind and yet, manager Ron Gardenhire made the move to throw in the veteran when the game was surely out of hand. If you look at the performance that Carroll put up, the crafty veteran was pretty effective. Carroll was able to accomplish in one inning what many of the Twins’ starters have failed to do all season long: throw strikes and get hitters out. Carroll, the wily veteran and ace in the pocket of Gardenhire, was able to carve through the Royals’ lineup with ease as if he had been pitching for years and to top it all off, he jogged off the field once he retired the side, a feat rarely seen by any pitcher in the game today. How can you not cheer for a guy like that?
Besides the comic relief, and eye-opening experience, that Carroll’s relief appearance gave the Twins, it also generated an interesting thought: why don’t managers do this more often? Towards the end of the year, you always hear about a bullpen becoming worn out, tired and ineffective because of the starting rotation not going deep enough into games. Often times, this results in games getting out of hands by seven to ten runs or more and yet, the long-reliever or other middle relievers are still being used. Now I understand that baseball is a funny game and large comebacks can happen; but if you are down by a significant amount and your bullpen is tired, why not throw a guy out there who is a bench player, like Carroll, and let him eat up an inning or two for you?
By no means is that player going to be overly impressive, most of the time, but he will likely throw strikes and keep the game going along if he is prepared to do so. If a manager has a bench player or two practice for situations like this throughout the season, it could even increase their effectiveness likelihood. I doubt the position player would post a great ERA throughout the year; but if you could take a few innings off your bullpen during a blowout game, isn’t it worth it? In addition, it provides great entertainment for fans during a blowout who have stuck around. I understand that running a position player out to pitch against big-league hitters could endanger the player; but with the player being predominately a bench player, isn’t it a risk worth taking?
While it will likely be a one-time occurrence, seeing Carroll pitch on Monday night was entertaining and a memorable opportunity for a veteran who plays the game the right way and is likely nearing the end of his career. Hopefully we get to see the crafty veteran eat up a few more innings down the stretch; unfortunately, I don’t think that is going to happen.