On Monday, the Mets found themselves in a jam after scheduled starter Bartolo Colon was placed on the bereavement list. With a taxed bullpen and a Triple-A affiliate 2,000 miles away, manager Terry Collins was forced to call upon journeyman Carlos Torres to start, even though the right-hander had just pitched out of the bullpen the previous night. (Is there anything more Mets than needing to start a reliever on zero days rest because they can’t fly a minor league pitcher to the stadium in time for first pitch?)
Despite the odd assignment, Torres pitched well, striking out six in five scoreless innings, though the Mets tired bullpen coughed up the game after he departed. Hopefully Torres can take solace knowing that nobody in Mets history pitched better on zero days rest.
I actually had a chance to watch the game live and once I realized what was going on, I was inspired to see if anything similar had happened in Seattle. After a little digging on Baseball Reference’s amazing Play Index, I found that the Mariners have actually used a starter on zero days rest three times.
The first instance happened early in the franchise’s third season. Before Shane Rawley became an all-star with Philadelphia, he pitched out of the bullpen for some dreadful Mariners teams. On April 15th of 1979, he threw a forgettable inning in an 18-6 loss at home to the Minnesota Twins, allowing six base runners and five runs. The drubbing put the Mariners under the .500 mark – where they’d spend the rest of the season and most of the next decade – but things got really weird the day after.
The Mariners flew into Oakland late, and their equipment didn’t reach the ballpark until an hour before the start of the game. Worse, scheduled starter Byron McLaughlin slipped in his hotel room and broke a finger on his pitching hand. With the Mariners bullpen already running on fumes and no pitcher fresher than Rawley, manager Darrell Johnson was forced to give the ball to his young southpaw. Rawley started and worked into the fifth, departing after permitting four runs in another Mariners loss.
The second occasion was a little more understandable. On Tuesday April 13, 1982 the Mariners commenced what would eventually become the longest game in franchise history against the California Angels. Visiting Seattle scraped a run to tie the contest in the top of the ninth and the teams traded runs again in the 15th. The game was suspended for the night in the 18th, and picked up the following evening.
Gene Nelson came into pitch for the Mariners in the bottom of the 18th, and he stayed on until the game mercifully ended in the 20th inning, when Bob Boone singled home Don Baylor. The evening’s regularly scheduled game began an hour after the first one started, and given the minimal delay, there was no reason to relieve Nelson, a regular in the Mariners rotation that season.
Nelson pitched erratically but effectively in the second game, working into the sixth while scattering four hits and four walks but allowing just one run. Painfully, the Mariners went on to lose in ten innings, making it the first time in franchise history that the club had lost two extra inning games on the same day. For those curious, Angels reliever Luis Sanches threw the final 2.2 innings on Tuesday night before finishing up the game the following evening.
The final zero-days-rest-start came in May of 1989. Eric Hanson had been scheduled to start on May 30th, but when he came to the ballpark complaining of shoulder pain, the duty fell to Dennis Powell. Primarily a reliever, Powell made his only start of the campaign just one night after the Brewers tagged him for two runs and a loss in relief in Milwaukee. Pitching for the third time in four days – and fifth in eight – Powell labored in Yankee Stadium, lasting only four innings. He gave up six hits, three walks, and five runs in a 6-3 loss to the Bronx Bombers, making him the only player in franchise history to lose a game as a starter and a reliever on consecutive days.