Elarton in the outfield? A historical perspective on Wesley Wright’s right field debut.
Wesley Wright’s move from the pitcher’s mound to right field and back to the pitcher’s mound during Tuesday’s game in Denver marked a first for the franchise, in that no other pitcher in club history had ever played the outfield in the same game that he also pitched.
That much was easy enough to verify through the various statistical mechanisms Major League teams have at their fingertips when unusual things happen. Getting to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding the last time an Astros pitcher appeared in a game as an outfielder without also having pitched, however, was a bit more challenging. Sure, Elias Sports Bureau was typically efficient in relaying the information. But was it that cut and dried? No.
According to the box score of June 13, 1999, Scott Elarton, the 6-foot-8 starting pitcher not exactly known to be light on his feet, played center field during that game. Technically, that is correct. Sort of. Indeed, Elarton was listed as a center fielder in that game against the Padres at the Astrodome. But he never actually played in center, and, what’s more, he wasn’t inserted onto the lineup card by his manager to play that position until six weeks later, on July 23, 1999.
June 13 was a suspended game. The Astros were ahead 4-1 in the eighth inning with Jeff Bagwell batting, when Larry Dierker collapsed in the dugout and suffered a grand mal seizure. After Dierker was rushed to the hospital, the game was suspended and to be completed during the Padres’ next visit to Houston, on July 23.
Dierker, whose first game back after brain surgery was one week earlier on July 17, had a much different-looking lineup card this time. Here’s the sequence as play resumed in the bottom of the eighth, with Bagwell batting, according to baseball-reference.com:
Jose Lima replaces Shane Reynolds (P) playing 3B batting 9th
Russ Johnson replaces Jose Lima playing 3B batting 9th
Scott Elarton replaces Ricky Gutierrez (3B) playing CF batting 2nd
Glen Barker replaces Scott Elarton playing CF batting 2nd
Phil Nevin pinch hits for John Vander Wal (1B) batting 4th
Carl Everett (CF) and Gutierrez (3B) were on the disabled list on July 23, but not on June 13. Elarton and Lima replaced them in the lineup, but were then replaced by players who could actually play those positions by the time the ninth inning began.
(This would explain why when Jim Deshaies called Dierker on the way to the ballpark Wednesday morning and asked him about it, Dierker had no recollection of Elarton playing center. He said it never happened. Technically, he’s right.)
We ended our culinary tour of Coors Field on Wednesday by loading up another signature dish — the Monster Chicken Nachos. Monster is right. After I told them I want ‘em fully loaded, this thing must have weighed five pounds when I brought it back to the press box and pretended that I was going to share it with the taste-testing posse.
Just kidding. I did offer up samplings, but seeing it was only 11:45 a.m. and the nachos were positively dripping with cheese, chicken, beans, pico de gallo, jalapenos and probably some other stuff that I’m not remembering, I didn’t have many takers.
Our main man J.D. came through once again and dove in. His reaction? Favorable, putting it mildly.
“It’s a mouthful of yummy goodness that bites you at the end,” he said. Pretty accurate. The nachos are doused with jalapenos, and if the juice drips just so onto the nacho, you’re in for some serious face redness, nose-running and heavy breathing. Overall, I give the Monster Chicken Nachos a thumbs up, but the “kick” was a little too much for this Midwestern girl.
Our pals Brownie, J.D. and Greg Lucas were also “treated” to another Coors Field delicacy — chocolate-covered bacon. I wisely steered clear. Brownie’s take: “I’m a vegetarian again.”
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