This was inspired by a discussion on Twitter during an earlier game, between Michael, Clefo and Zavada’s Mustache about the non-Pollock centerfielders we had last season. But that wasn’t the first time we’ve seen... non-traditional players used by the Diamondbacks in the outfield. Below, you’ll find a dozen such cases, in chronological order. The egregiousness of their presence varies a bit, I think. Having someone fill in as an emergency in left, is different from asking them to start in CF. Also, none of this is intended to slight any of the players: it’s the front-office and managers, whose roster construction or in-game management who are usually responsible.
Damian Miller, RF, May 26, 1998
With the Padres 11-0 up in the eight, Miller had just come into the game as a PH, and was moved to right field for the final two innings. Starter there, Brent Brede, moved to 1B to replace Travis Lee, whose spot had been taken over by a reliever. This wasn’t Miller’s only stint there: he would also play right for an inning later in the season, giving him more career appearances in the outfield for Arizona than Jack Cust, before going back to catching, handling Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in the 2001 World Series.
Travis Lee, starting CF, May 20, 2000
Our first big “free agent” signing, almost 18 months before our opening game, Lee was our regular 1B in 1998 - including in Arizona’s debut contest, where he hit our first ever home-run. But he slumped so badly, he lost his job there, and ended up trying his hand in the outfield. It included this start against the Mets, but even that couldn’t save Lee, and a couple of months later, he was part of the trade with the Phillies for Curt Schilling.
Junior Spivey: CF, June 4, 2003
Owings isn’t the first time we’ve seen an infielder pressed into use in CF. For our 2002 All-Star second baseman took over for Steve Finley in the sixth, after Finley was pulled with cramp. Spivey had not played the outfield at any point in his professional career, and the D-backs did apparently have Danny Bautista available on the bench. Bautista started the game before and after this in right, so would have seemed a more logical alternative. History does not record the reason.
Damion Easley: starting RF, April 14, 2006
Easley had been in the bigs since 1992, and this was his 1,433rd major-league appearance. He had played a total of 35 outfield innings, almost all with the Marlins in 2004. As above, I’m not sure why Bob Melvin opted to drop Easley in there that night, instead of everyday right-fielder Shawn Green or fourth outfielder Jeff DaVanon. I mean, he was replaced defensively by Green for the eighth, after recording zero outs.
Mark Reynolds: RF, July 1, 2007
At least we’re not the Yankees, who inexplicably decided to start Reynolds at second-base in 2013. But he did appear twice in one week for Arizona in right, both cases being late on in blowout losses (combined margin of defeat: 1-21) and in place of Eric Byrnes. This particular case was late on in a double-header, so it perhaps made a little more sense than some of these. Melvin seemed to specialize in these kind of bizarro moves as a manager. See also...
Chris Snyder: LF, August 14, 2007
a.k.a. The Game Where Melvin Said, “Screw It.” For Snyder, who started behind the plate, made his major-league debut at not one but two different positions here. He moved to 1B in the seventh, then out to left in the bottom of the eighth - as Augie Ojeda tossed a perfect inning of mop-up in a 14-6 blowout. Our catcher would play first-base again, less than a week later, once more with a position player pitching, in this case, Jeff Cirillo.
Wily Mo Pena: starting LF, July 10, 2011
At one point, Pena was actually a semi-regular outfielder, starting as many as 85 games there for the Reds in 2004. However, by this point in his career Wily Mo had become the ultimate DH: he appeared 39 times that year, between Arizona and Seattle, and this was Pena’s only time in the field. Outs recorded: 0. Fun fact: he’s still trying to make rosters, after a spell in Japan, and was with the Indians this spring. But his power was responsible for the Don Baylor GIF above.
Will Ferrell: LF, March 12, 2015
Yes, that Will Ferrell. If you’d forgotten, this was part of a charity stunt during spring training, in which the actor got to play every position in a day, appearing for 10 different teams at five Cactus League parks. Ferrell actually saw more action in his stint at Salt River Field than for every other team put together, having to field his position three times in his inning of work, as the ball appeared magnetically drawn to him. Still, it raised $1 million for charity, which is more than can be said for the rest of this list!
Shelby Miller: PR and LF, April 24, 2016
No matter how bad Miller’s 2016 was, he’ll always have this. A marathon game saw him pinch-run for Zack Greinke, who had pinch-hit in the 12th. But the previous at-bat had seen Nick Ahmed ejected for arguing strikes. That required Brandon Drury to come in from the outfield, and with the D-backs out of position players after Chris Herrmann batted in the 10th, Miller had to man left. The only pitcher ever to field any other position for the D-backs, he didn’t embarrass himself, fielding the ball cleanly on both the Pirates RBI hits in the 13th.
Brandon Drury, Chris Owings and Chris Herrmann: starting OF, May 9, 2016
The loss of A.J. Pollock immediately before the season proved disastrous for Arizona, and this game likely represented the pinnacle of the resulting situation. Our starting outfield that day consisted of two infielders and our backup catcher, with Herrmann the only one to have professional experience as an outfielder prior to Opening Day the previous month - a grand total of 31 major-league starts across our outfield. It likely is no coincidence the team went out and signed Michael Bourn, the very next day.
Honorable mentions: Emilio Bonifacio, Erubiel Durazo, Alberto Callaspo, Brandon Allen, Martin Prado, Willie Bloomquist and Robby Hammock