Two of the three basic rules of pitching are “work fast” and “throw strikes.”
That’s all Skip Schumaker was trying to accomplish Thursday night.
In an effort to cut down on bullpen wear-and-tear, the Reds utility player pitched the ninth inning of their 8-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. He faced four batters, allowing a walk while coaxing two fly outs and a ground out in the fourth mound appearance of his career, all in the last three years.
“You don’t want to make it a circus,” Schumaker said before Friday’s second game of the four-game series. “The game’s already out of hand and the last thing you want to do is create something that’s worse than what it is already. I was just trying to get in and get out.
“Guys don’t want to be standing around. The other side doesn’t want to be hitting off a position player. All of it is a lose-lose situation. Unfortunately, I’ve been in that spot more times than I want to be, and I’m glad it’s over with, because there’s some big boys hitting and they’re awfully close.”
Schumaker now has a respectable 4.50 ERA in four career innings. He allowed a walk and a two-run homer in his mound debut with St. Louis in 2011, but he followed up with two scoreless innings for the Dodgers last season.
“I’ve done it before, unfortunately,” he said. “It’s not a spot you want to be in as a position player.”
Manager Bryan Price believes Schumaker’s pace stems from his background as a position player.
“He gets it,” Price said. “Anybody that’s played defense behind a pitcher that works slowly, they get the opportunity to pitch, they’re not going to subject the defense behind them to a tenuous tempo.”
Still, Price admitted he hopes he doesn’t have to talk again about using Schumaker as a pitcher. Hoping to shore up their leaky bullpen, the Reds optioned Thursday’s starting pitcher, David Holmberg, to Triple-A Louisville and recalled from Double-A Pensacola right-hander Daniel Corcino, whose first appearance will be his major-league debut.
“He’ll come into a game that may not be decided, but the score is sideways a little bit, either way up or way down, and have him be able to eat up some innings for the bullpen,” Price said. “I think it’s a good role for him to come into with his experience. We’ll try to give him as soft a landing as we can.”
Oh, the other pitching rule? “Change speeds.” Though Schumaker’s velocity ranged from 70 miles per hour to 90, he didn’t claim to possess much of a repertoire.
“(Batting practice) fastball,” he said. “I’m just trying to throw strikes and make it quick.”