Utility player to pitcher: Ernie Clement takes the mound for the Guardians

Before he became the first Cleveland position player to pitch since June 29, 2019, Ernie Clement was listed as the Guardians’ backup catcher.
Cleveland Guardians' Ernie Clement pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning...
Cleveland Guardians' Ernie Clement pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning of a baseball game Monday, June 27, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)(Ron Schwane | AP)
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 11:17 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Cleveland Guardians’ Ernie Clement has singlehandedly changed the stigma of being a utility player in Major League Baseball with his solid glove and versatility around the in and outfield.

You’ll mainly see him in the starting lineup filling in at third base or left field, but he’s made appearances at second, shortstop, and as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.

He’s #28 on the field and probably #28 in your mind for who would be taking the mound for Cleveland, but when the Guardians were in a bind and getting shut out by the Twins, this position player was called to be a pitcher.

While that sounds as unlikely as his college baseball team, the University of Virginia Cavaliers, making the 1186-mile trip to Omaha to take the 2015 College World Series championship after a slew of injuries his freshman year, this game starts off even crazier...

The 26-year-old Rochester native was first listed as the backup catcher for Monday’s game with Austin Hedges hurt and Bryan Lavastida on the IL.

If you don’t believe it, take a look at the pic Bally Sports reporter Andre Knott tweeted of Clement in catcher gear from bullpen sessions and warmups.

C Luke Maile was able to hold down the fort behind the plate, but Clement was later called to play a different position he had never held in the MLB (or the minors)...

He was first put in the game to pinch run for José Ramírez at the bottom of the seventh inning - nothing out of the ordinary.

Clement stayed in the game at third base heading into the eighth.

Remember how I said he’s known for his solid glove?

He’s proven on numerous occasions he’s more than capable of making highlight-worthy defensive plays without it, too.

Now it’s the ninth, and it’s Ernest James Clement making his pitching debut, replacing P Ian Gibaut.

This made him to first Cleveland position player to pitch since June 29, 2019, which was Mike Freeman at Baltimore.

He allowed two runs on four hits and got three outs, but this wild pitch is what got people talking:

Clement went back to familiar territory with a bat in the bottom of the ninth with a pop-out to first base.

Even though he’s whiffed at the plate by going 0-4 his latest previous games with a .194 average, don’t expect him to be walking back to the mound to Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” anytime soon.

His first career pitching appearance ended with an 18.00 ERA, 1.0 IP, 0 SO, and 4.00 WHIP.

After the game, Knott asked how he felt about his first time being on the mound, to which Clement responded, “It was pretty cool! I wish I could’ve gave up less hits, but, I mean, it was cool. It saves the bullpen.”

He told Knott it was “kind of a whirlwind” to prepare himself mentally for the challenge.

But when his team calls on him, “whatever they need, I’m gonna go out and try to do my best... catching, pitching, picking Joséy up, whatever... I’ll do it.” Clement told Knott in his post-game interview.

At least he’s already having a good laugh about it.

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