MILWAUKEE – Cubs catcher David Ross was getting loose with a bat in case he was needed to pinch-hit, when manager Joe Maddon, indeed, went looking for him late in Saturday night’s loss to the Brewers.
“He came up to me with a big smile,” Ross said. “He said, `Do you want to pitch?’
“I kind of stared at him for a little while and then said, `Yeah, why not?’ “
Facing the prospects of tapping a beleaguered, battered bullpen for another inning of work in the eighth inning of a 12-4 game, Maddon gave the go-ahead for his 38-year-old catcher to pitch his first inning since Little League.
“Then the nerves and the heartbeat went to another level,” said Ross, who proceeded to throw 11 “fastballs,” nine of which were strikes, one of which topped out at 77 mph.
It all added up to a 1-2-3 inning he finished by inducing a grounder to second from the Brewers’ top hitter, Adam Lind – making Ross the Cubs’ best-performing pitcher of the night.
“It was nice to get an easy inning, but I don’t envy those pitchers out there on the mound,” Ross said. “I don’t want that job. I like hiding behind the mask a lot better.”
Maddon was able to preserve a night off for the two pitchers he considered available in the bullpen, Zac Rosscup and Justin Grimm, and was able to keep from sending James Russell to the mound after a quick seventh.
The manager also got welcomed distraction for his butt-beat team at the end of the night.
“In moments like that, it’s a tough game, it’s a bad game,” Maddon said, “and that’ll be a good postgame topic among the boys. The vibe in the dugout was fantastic. In spite of having a bad night, it ended on a good note in a sense.
“Plus Rosscup never moved his arm, and Grimm never moved his arm tonight, at all, and then Russell only threw eight pitches.”