Ten months after Christian Bethancourt notched two outs in a blowout for his first big-league pitching appearance, the San Diego Padres catcher is officially getting his chance to make it as a two-way player. After spending his offseason focusing on his pitching, he was included on the roster announced today with the intent that he’ll “primarily” be used as a reliever.
So far as position players pitching go, Bethancourt did pretty well for himself last year—with a fastball that touched 96 mph and an eephus pitch that was baffling, along with one hit batter and two walks.
Of course, the focus shifts when you watch that not to see a position player (he hit 96!) but to see a soon-to-be ordinary reliever (he hit a guy to load the bases!). A position player pitching badly is fun; a position player pitching well is a delightful surprise. Expectations are so low that there are no real ways to fail—and that goes away when said position player converts to being a reliever full-time and is expected to perform as an actual pitcher rather than as a gimmicky joy. (Meg Rowley and Patrick Dubuque have an excellent debate on these ideas over at Baseball Prospectus.)
His pitching in spring training has been decent, though far from great, and manager Andy Green made it clear that he’d still see time catching and potentially in the outfield, too—which seems more likely to end up a mess than anything else, but given that Bethancourt has consistently been one of baseball’s worst hitters and the Padres aren’t trying to win anyway, there’s not really much to lose by trying.