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08/24/11 2:00 AM ET
Mills goes outside the box with bullpen move
Astros lefty Wright goes from mound to outfield and back
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
DENVER -- Desperate times call for desperate measures and with his team eliminated from the postseason chase after a loss Monday, Astros manager Brad Mills made a completely logical but highly unusual move in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday while trailing the Rockies, 8-6. With left-hander Carlos Gonzalez leading off, Mills brought southpaw Wesley Wright in relief of Fernando Rodriguez. Wright retired Gonzalez on a foul popup to catcher Humberto Quintero. With right-handed cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki at the plate and lefty Todd Helton on deck, Mills brought in David Carpenter and sent Wright to right field, where he had never played in his professional career. Brian Bogusevic left the game. "We just wanted to use one left-hander in that situation," Mills said. "Wright's played the outfield. Probably somewhere down the road. He said he had." "I'd probably say high school in '03 was the last time I was in the outfield when the game was actually going on," Wright said. "During BP we all try to shag balls and pretend to be outfielders, but we never think we're going to get in the game. It was an interesting one batter for me in right field. "I was really trying to have fun and focus on the pitch and make sure I got a good jump if the ball actually did come to me, because the last thing you want to do is miss it. So I was just trying to stay focused and make sure if it came to me, I caught it." Carpenter retired Tulowitzki on a grounder to short, and as Helton strode to the plate, Mills came back to the mound and called Wright back from right field. Carpenter left the game and J.B. Shuck went to right field. Helton worked the count full before Wright caught him looking, putting the middle of the Rockies' lineup down in order. "I felt more loose," Wright said of his second appearance on the mound in one inning. "I guess the blood was flowing a little more, and I felt better on the second warmup pitches." High school ball may not be what Mills was expecting when Wright said he'd played in the outfield before. But Wright's experience in the outfield was more current than any Astros pitcher in the last dozen years. The last time an Astros pitcher played the outfield was when Scott Elarton patrolled the grass on June 13, 1999, in a 4-3 win over the Dodgers, according to STATS LLC. Elarton, however, did not pitch in that game. Wright is, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first pitcher in franchise history to play a position in the field in a game in which he pitched. Mills couldn't recall having seen the move in the big leagues, though others cite Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa as two managers who have employed the strategy. "I can tell my daughter and my future kids that I actually played right field," Wright said. "It was one of the highlights of my career so far."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.