By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox aren’t leading the Northwest League in much so far this season. But the Sox are well on their way to leading the league in one category: pitching appearances by position players.
Everett already has had three pitching appearances by players who aren’t pitchers, with two of those coming over the weekend. Those position players not only have helped take some pressure off the pitching staff, they’ve also been surprisingly effective.
“When a manager calls on you you have to be read to do whatever, so I was ready to help the team any way I could,” said Sox catcher Luke Guarnaccia, one of the two position players who’s appeared on the mound for the Sox. “I just got on the mound and chucked it.”
Everett hasn’t had much to get excited about this season — going into Tuesday night’s home game against Salem-Keizer the Sox were a league-worst 8-23. But circumstances have given Everett’s position players an unusual number of opportunities to strut their stuff on the mound. Both Guarnaccia and infielder Jordan Cowan made appearances during the weekend in Vancouver, and for Guarnaccia it was his second appearance of the season.
Guarnaccia and Cowan have performed well, too.
Guarnaccia was first called upon July 4 at home against Tri-City. The game reached the 11th inning and Everett was out of pitchers so Guarnaccia, who hadn’t pitched since high school in 2010, was summoned in a game with the score tied. He gave up one run in one inning and ended up taking the loss, but he also recorded a strikeout. Then this past Friday at Vancouver, he was called upon again, getting a line out and double play from the two batters he faced.
“I just threw a fastball, really,” Guarnaccia said. “I tried to mix in a curveball, but it was really slow, kind of a baby curveball so I wouldn’t hurt myself. But I got a strikeout with it, so it was pretty cool. It was fun. Any time you get to do something out of the ordinary and help your team out is fun.
“I was really, really sore the next day, but it was a lot of fun.”
Cowan got his chance this past Saturday. Everett only was able to take six pitchers to Vancouver because of visa issues, so the game was pitched by four players flown in just for that game.
However, when the fourth of those pitchers, Logan Seifrit, gave up three runs in the ninth inning of a game the Sox had been leading 11-1, Cowan was given the ball. Cowan pitched once for Pulaski of the rookie Appalachian League last year, but before that he hadn’t pitched since he was 14. Yet he retired both batters he faced, striking out Ryan Metzler looking to end the game and preserve the victory.
“I thought Nelson (Ward) was going to go in because I saw him warming up (in the bullpen),” Cowan said. “Then the mound visit came, we all went to the mound and (manager Dave Valle) is smirking at me. I’m like, ‘What,’ and he goes, ‘You’re on the hill.’ What? OK. I had no idea it was coming.”
And the game-ending strikeout?
“I don’t know if it was a strike or a ball,” said Cowan, who made sure he collected the ball from the umpire afterward. “Everyone has their different opinion. As a hitter’s opinion it was definitely a ball. But to say I struck out someone in professional baseball is a cool feeling. Honestly, it was probably lucky, but the umpire called it a strike, he wanted to get the game over with.”
So are Guarnaccia and Cowan prepared to take the mound again if asked?
“Absolutely,” Guarnaccia responded. “Whenever they need me to go out there and get on the mound and help the team, I’m ready.”