Leury Garcia was in disbelief as he watched Adam Dunn walk to the mound on Tuesday night.
The last non-pitcher to pitch for the White Sox, the utility man was at second base before the start of the ninth inning as Dunn headed for the hill. Garcia wasn’t sure if what he was witnessing was real.
Much to the delight of those left in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field and those in the White Sox dugout, Dunn pitched the final inning of a 16-0 loss to the Texas Rangers. Dunn allowed a run and two hits with a walk over an inning.
“When I saw him walking, ‘Where’s he going?’” said Garcia, who pitched an inning on April 16. “Everybody else was like ‘Is he going to pitch?’ Everybody was surprised. He did a good job. Athletic.”
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With the bullpen continuing to struggle and the game out of hand, White Sox manager Robin Ventura opted to turn to his designated hitter to pitch the final inning. The move had Dunn’s teammates highly entertained on what was a dismal evening.
Dunn didn’t disappoint as his first pitch was a 78-mph fastball for a called strike to Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. Andrus later grounded out to second base as part of Dunn’s 22-pitch inning.
“I haven’t laughed on a baseball field like that in a long time,” center fielder Adam Eaton said. “It takes you back to the glory days and like I said, he had good sink, that’s all I can say.”
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Ventura suggested the decision was in part to lighten the mood in the clubhouse late in a blowout loss. Always one to talk a big game, Dunn, who several years back insisted he’s the second best quarterback in Chicago behind Jay Cutler, has long lobbied to pitch in a blowout.
With a quick turnaround before tomorrow’s 1:05 p.m. first pitch, Ventura didn’t think it was a bad idea to send Dunn, who has hit 457 homers, to the mound for his pro pitching debut.
“Every once in a while you get guys that think they can pitch,” Ventura said. “He's felt he can pitch for a couple years now. At that point, we didn't have anybody to put up six runs so he was the guy.
“At that point, it loosens it up a little bit. But they'll be ready to go tomorrow.”
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The sight of Dunn -- who afterward was unavailable for comment -- on the mound even brought a half smile to the face of starter John Danks, who allowed nine runs and four homers over 4 2/3 innings. Danks apologized for putting the team in that position in the first place but couldn’t help but enjoy Dunn’s effort.
“After a game like this, hopefully it will send guys home with something to laugh about because the job I did to start the game and the tone I set didn’t really have us in the direction of giving us anything to laugh about,” Danks said. “Hopefully it helps us put it behind us faster and go the ’em tomorrow.”
Garcia enjoyed it as well as it took him back to April 16 when he made his pro pitching debut. The infielder allowed two runs in the 14 th inning of a loss to Boston after the White Sox ran out of pitchers.
With Dunn’s effort on Tuesday, it marks the first time a position player has appeared in two games in the same season for the White Sox since 1979, when Wayne Nordhagen pitched twice.
“That was fun,” Garcia said. “I’ve been there and I know it’s fun.”