Van Every pitching in everywhere
Outfielder makes a cameo appearance as a reliever
ST. PETERSBURG -- Roughly 24 hours after lifting the Red Sox to victory in Cleveland with his first Major League homer, Jonathan Van Every was left with a far less glorious task on Saturday night at Tropicana Field.
With the Red Sox getting crushed -- and on their way to a 13-0 loss -- manager Terry Francona was not in the mood to burn out his bullpen.
Instead of calling on Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen or Ramon Ramirez to relieve the beleaguered Javier Lopez, Francona signaled for right fielder Van Every to come to the mound with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Lopez (one-third of an inning, four hits, five runs, one walk) then took Van Every's spot in right field.
All things considered, Van Every did a nice job minimizing the damage in his first mound performance in more than a decade -- when he was a senior southpaw for University Christian High School in Mississippi.
"It's been quite a while, but I figured I'd just throw the ball over the plate and let the law of averages play out," Van Every said.
Van Every started by getting a foul popup to third base. Michel Hernandez then ripped an RBI double to right-center that Lopez had to chase. After a walk to B.J. Upton, Van Every (two-thirds of an inning, one hit, no earned runs) ended his pitching cameo with a foul popup to first off the bat of Ben Zobrist.
It was the first time Francona has asked a position player to take the mound since David McCarty on Oct. 3, 2004. But that was different, as McCarty had spent all of that Spring Training rotating between position player and pitcher. Even more rare was Lopez making the move to right. No Boston pitcher had played another position since Tom Burgmeier manned left field at Texas on Aug. 3, 1980.
"It was strange, definitely, when the guy hit the ball to right-center and I see Javy running after the ball," Van Every said. "Luckily, nobody got hurt. [We'll] reload and get ready for tomorrow."
Van Every did not mix it up during his 17-pitch performance.
"All fastballs, 75-mph fastballs, just humming it in there," he said. "It's something you can tell your kids about. I pitched in the Major Leagues. It was cool. It was a neat experience."
But nowhere near as neat as belting a game-winner in Cleveland.
"Roller coaster," he said. "You're on cloud nine one day, you hit a game-winning home run. The next day, things didn't turn out the way we planned."
This certainly wasn't the way Francona drew it up.
"First of all, I don't like doing it," Francona said. "But at that point, we had checked with him earlier. I think he had an idea. I'm not going to let a pitcher get hurt. Javy had thrown three days in a row.
"I didn't want to embarrass anybody. Certainly, we didn't want to embarrass Javy. We're just not going to hurt somebody like that. We're already getting killed. It was a bad night. We have Ramon, Pap, Oki and Delcarmen [fresh for Friday]. If we play a good game [on Friday], we're not strapped [in the bullpen]. That's the whole idea."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.