A's call on closer Doolittle to pinch-hit in 10th
Pitcher grounds out to end game against Red Sox closer Uehara
OAKLAND -- When A's manager Bob Melvin called upon his closer to bat -- not pitch -- in the 10th inning of Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Red Sox, Sean Doolittle had a goal in mind.
Don't strike out.
"I was trying my best not to give them the satisfaction of ending the game on a punchout," Doolittle said, "because I know how exciting that can be."
By the time Oakland had overcome a five-run deficit and after injuries to Kyle Blanks and Derek Norris, Melvin had used all four of the position players on his bench, leaving Doolittle as his last hope -- the first A's pitcher to be called upon to pinch-hit since the late Bob Welch on May 13, 1994, versus the Kansas City Royals.
Pinch-hitting for pitcher Fernando Abad, who had yielded David Ortiz's go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th, Doolittle, who grounded out to end the game, was a little more prepared for the role than one might have thought.
After pitching -- and hitting -- at the University of Virginia, Doolittle spent the first four years of his pro career as a first baseman before switching to pitching because of injuries. He last swung the bat full time at Triple-A Sacramento in 2009.
"It's tough to knock the rust off of three, four years," Doolittle said, "in a matter of 10, 15 swings."
But that's how many hacks he took at ball flips from A's hitting coach Chili Davis before the bottom of the 10th. His assignment started with a phone call for coach Darren Bush in the bullpen.
"I thought [Bush] was going to ask me how I was feeling because I had started stretching out," Doolittle said. "Obviously, I was still in pitcher mode, thinking I'm going to have to go into an extra-inning game. [Bush] just said, 'Hey, go inside, grab a bat, get some swings in the cage. You're hitting third next inning.'"
Doolittle sneaked into the batting cages with Davis, trying to get his hands going to find his old swing path. Most of all, he made sure his body was loose enough to avoid pulling a muscle. Then he ran back to the field to be in the on-deck circle. He came to the plate with two outs, nobody on and the A's down 7-6 against Boston closer Koji Uehara.
"It was very nerve-racking," Doolittle said. "You saw the way our guys battled. I was hoping I could draw a walk or break my bat and get a bloop hit or something. I'm not exactly sure what I would have done if I got on base.
"But hitting is really hard. Facing a guy like [Uehara] gives you a different appreciation for it, that's for sure."
Melvin and Co. complimented Doolittle for laying off Uehara's 0-2 splitter.
"He looked like a real hitter there," Melvin said. "I know I would be swinging at that."
Doolittle quipped: "His 'splitty' is pretty good. Which was a take, by the way. I didn't get fooled. I saw it out of his hand and laid off it."
Starter Tommy Milone was in the dugout listening to the game and thought the same thing.
"Four years off, to at least get a piece of it and give us a chance," said Milone, who started and yielded five runs in five innings. "He looked pretty good out there."
Doolittle was asked if the result, a groundout to Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the fourth pitch of the at-bat, affirmed his career choice to become a hurler.
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to concede that," he said. "All pitchers think they can hit. I can hit, man."
Andrew Pentis is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.