TORONTO — What gets lost in the novelty of a position player pitching is just how difficult and dangerous it can be. Ryan Goins provided a reminder Saturday, when he hit the 15-day disabled list with right forearm tightness after pitching the day before.
The 28-year-old infielder was asked to take the mound in the 18th inning of Friday’s marathon six-hour game, and pitched a scoreless frame using a variety of pitches with velocities ranging between 74 and 90 mph. But after one of his 15 pitches, Goins felt something abnormal in his forearm.
“It just kind of tightened up,” Goins said. “It was actually after one of the ones that I wasn’t throwing very hard.”
Goins had entered the game with the intention of pitching multiple innings, but when he came back to the dugout he told Blue Jays trainers that he didn’t feel like he could throw another inning, at least not at a competitive velocity.
“I thought it was best to not go back out and maybe do something more than I already had,” Goins said. “And it was tough to control my adrenalin and emotions out there. When I went out, I told myself not to do anything stupid. I was trying not to overthrow or anything like that. But it’s a lot different throwing off of a mound rather than flat ground.”
It’s an especially unfortunate injury for Goins, who never should have been on the mound in the first place. He hasn’t pitched since college, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
“My role on this team is to do whatever I’m asked, no matter what position they put me at. If it so happens to be pitcher, it’s pitcher,” Goins said. “I don’t regret it at all. I was going out there to get outs and try to help the team win in whatever way I could. Things happen in this game and it was just one of those situations. I’ll take a couple days off and get back after it. I’ll be back.”
Factoring into the decision to place Goins on the DL is the Blue Jays’ bullpen crunch after Friday’s lengthy affair. Both Drew Hutchison and Aaron Loup were recalled from triple-A Buffalo to provide relief reinforcements after every single one of the Blue Jays relievers pitched Friday.
In a cruel twist of fate, hard-throwing right-hander Bo Schultz was the odd man out, finding himself optioned to Buffalo to make room. He threw three excellent scoreless innings on Friday while battling cramps on a humid day under the dome at Rogers Centre.
“You hate to do it,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “That’s what sucks about the business. He does a great job, but he’s got options.”
Friday’s game left many Blue Jays fans wondering why the team didn’t turn to one of its starters as one game stretched into two. That’s the strategy the Cleveland Indians took, sending Saturday’s scheduled starter, Trevor Bauer, to the mound to throw five innings of relief, which eventually earned him the win.
But the Blue Jays’ hands were tied. Marco Estrada, scheduled to start the next day, has been battling back tightness throughout the season and the team didn’t want to put him at risk. He undergoes a lengthy pre-game routine in the trainer’s room just to take the mound on his start days.
J.A. Happ, slated to start Sunday’s series finale, had thrown an aggressive side session the day before and would have been putting his arm at risk to pitch at game velocities less than 24 hours later.
R.A. Dickey threw 92 pitches the day before, and while knuckleballers are generally more durable than traditional pitchers, asking Dickey to pitch again the next day would have risked injury.
And Aaron Sanchez is perhaps the most promising young pitcher in the Blue Jays organization, one the team has handled with extreme caution throughout his career in order to not overextend him. There was no way he was going in the game.
Thus, Goins and fellow infielder Darwin Barney took the mound.
“It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you have to do it,” Gibbons said. “That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
Friday’s game may have never reached 19 innings if not for the Blue Jays losing one of their best hitters, Edwin Encarnacion, in the first inning. The slugger was tossed by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza for disputing balls and strikes, which led to Gibbons himself getting ejected a moment later as he argued Encarnacion’s case.
Carapazza’s strike zone was noticeably inconsistent throughout the game, which led to several discussions with Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, who the 36-year-old umpire eventually ejected in the 14th inning.
Both Encarnacion and Martin had legitimate beefs according to PITCHf/x data, and both were tossed while they were walking back to the dugout. After the game, Martin said he simply told Carapazza he disagreed with the call and that he was careful not to attack the umpire personally.
On Saturday, Gibbons said he felt Carapazza had a quick trigger, but that he understood umpires are trying to exert their control of the game.
“You never see Eddy react like that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. And then him and Russ battled it out most of the game,” Gibbons said. “Every umpire’s different, you know? They all react differently. You never know who’s going to do what. That part of the game’s been around forever. They all have different triggers.”