Eric Gagne addressed questions about his past connections to performance-enhancing drugs upon arriving to Dodgers’ camp on Saturday, according to Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse:
“I’ve said it 150 times, it’s always going to be on my resume for the
rest of my life,” Gagne told reporters. “People will second-guess
everything I do and if I have a good year they’ll all second guess.
That’s normal. I’m not expecting anything else. But for me it’s over. I
have to go on. I can talk about it every day. It doesn’t matter. I
still have to go out and pitch and perform.”
Gagne, who turned 34 in January, signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers this week. Honestly, I almost forgot Gagne was included in the Mitchell Report and that’s probably because he’s been completely irrelevant for so long.
Yesterday, in Milwaukee, utilityman Hernan Perez pitched two scoreless innings, and backup catcher Erik Kratz pitched one himself, mopping up in a blowout loss to the Dodgers. In doing so they became the 31st and 32nd position players to pitch this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most position players who have taken the mound in a season in the Expansion Era, which began in 1961. Presumably far fewer ever did so when the league had only 16 teams.
It’s pretty remarkable to set that record now, in this age of 13 and sometimes 14-man pitching staffs. That’s especially true when teams shuttle guys back and forth from the minors more often than they ever have before and when, due to the shortened, 10-day disabled list, it’s easier to give guys breaks because of “injuries” than it ever has been.
Pitcher usage is driving this, however. While teams carry far more relievers than they ever have before, they actually carry far fewer swingmen or mopup men who are capable of throwing multiple innings in a blowout to save other pitchers’ arms. Rather, teams focus on max-effort, high-velocity relievers who go one or two innings tops, thus requiring catchers and utility guys to help do the mopping that actual pitchers used to do.
I don’t know if that’s a bad thing necessarily — some of these backup catchers throw harder than a lot of pitchers did 30 years ago and it’s always kind of fun to see a position player pitch — but it is yet another way the game has changed due to a focus on specialization and velocity when it comes to pitchers.