Pirates’ Kratz makes history on the mound
A common reassurance for slumping baseball players is that they eventually will play to the back of their respective baseball cards.
After Tuesday night, it’s safe to say few will ever play to the back of Pirates catcher Erik Kratz’s baseball card.
On Wednesday, baseball card manufacturer Topps tweeted out a link to a limited edition baseball card commemorating Kratz as the first player since 1879 to catch and pitch for two teams in the same year.
“I did not know that,” Kratz said Wednesday when asked about the rare feat.
Acquired from the Los Angeles Angels on June 11, Kratz tossed a scoreless inning in relief in the Pirates’ 15-4 loss to the Giants on Tuesday. He allowed two hits and struck out Brandon Belt for his first out of the inning.
The ninth inning was an improvement from Kratz’s April 26 outing for the Astros against the Mariners, in which he allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits over one inning in an 11-1 loss.
Kratz, 36, said he hasn’t pitched regularly since his freshman year of high school. His two innings on the mound with the Astros and Pirates are his only innings in 213 games at the major league level, but he has logged six innings in the minor leagues, most recently pitching with Triple-A Indianapolis in 2010.
Asked playfully about Kratz’s availability out of the bullpen Wednesday, manager Clint Hurdle said the reserve catcher would gladly raise his hand and volunteer if asked to pitch again. Like Kratz, Hurdle said he was not aware of how unusual Tuesday’s appearance made Kratz in baseball history.
“I’ll believe it. I’ll believe it,” Hurdle said. “That’s got to be hard to do, and there’s got to be the right kind of circumstances.”
On Tuesday, Kratz’s most bizarre pitch was his second to Belt, clocked at 52 mph and well out of the strike zone.
“It was a knuckleball,” Kratz said. “I’ve thrown a knuckleball for forever, just when you’re warming your arm up and stuff, it’s something fun to play with and see how it moves around.”
On the other end of the spectrum was a first-pitch fastball to Ramiro Pena that resulted in a base hit to center field. The pitch was clocked at 86 mph, with Kratz adding a small clarification.
“I got a text that I hit 86 on the scoreboard, but it said I hit 86.6 (officially), so don’t pencil me at 86, OK?” Kratz said. “I’ll definitely round up.”