CLEVELAND -- Andy Marte might have found his niche after all these years. Manager Manny Acta, with his bullpen depleted by starter Mitch Talbot's early injury and the ineffectiveness of the relief corps, turned to the third baseman to work the ninth inning against the Yankees in a 11-4 loss at Progressive Field on Thursday night. "He told me the inning before," Marte said. "I said, 'Are you sure?' "
But that's not even the crazy part. The crazy part was that Marte mowed down the Yanks in a 1-2-3 inning. After becoming the first non-pitcher used by the Tribe as a pitcher since Tim Laker in 2004, Marte returned to the dugout and got high-fives from his teammates. "Everybody was laughing," he said. Everybody but Acta. "That's something I don't like doing," Acta said of inserting a position player to pitch. "I did it because we had to. It looks like a mockery of the game." It was necessary not just because of the mid-back strain that forced Talbot out of the game in the third but because of Fausto Carmona's struggles a night earlier. Carmona didn't make it out of the third inning, either, and Acta quickly found himself short on relievers. By the time the ninth inning rolled around on Thursday, only Hector Ambriz and Chris Perez were available. Ambriz had thrown 43 pitches in Wednesday's loss, and Perez had pitched in three of the previous four games. Acta, then, had to turn to a position player. His first thought was to go to infielder Luis Valbuena. "But then I saw Valbuena had a sleeve on his elbow and I didn't even think twice about it," Acta said. So Acta went with Marte, who was on the bench. And once Marte, who had never been used as a pitcher in his life, was over his shock, he asked Carmona for some advice. Carmona showed him how to throw a sinker. It worked. As what remained of the crowd of 34,455 looked on with a mix of dropped jaws and wide smiles, Marte worked his way out of a 3-0 count to get Robinson Cano to ground out to second. Not bad, considering Marte's third pitch nearly plunked Cano in the head. Then Marte struck out Nick Swisher on three pitches, with Swisher chuckling as he walked back to the dugout. "Me and Marte, we've both got the same ERA," Swisher joked. "I now have a new most embarrassing moment. He had some run on his stuff. I was sitting on the breaking ball, 0-2, and he gassed me upstairs. ... As soon as I swung, I knew it." Said Marte: "It was a fastball. They were all fastballs." To cap his shining moment, Marte got Marcus Thames to line out to third on an 89-mph fastball to end the inning. Marte threw 13 pitches, nine for strikes. And on a night when Tribe pitchers walked a season-high 12 batters, this was major progress. "It's a good example of what you can accomplish when you throw strikes," Acta said. The only thing that would have made Marte's outing more incredible was if he had faced Alex Rodriguez, who is still sitting on 599 career home runs. Fortunately for Marte, A-Rod had made the last out of the eighth. "I thought I was going to have to face him," Marte joked. It was the 21st time in Indians club history that a non-pitcher had taken the mound. Laker did it on April 20, 2004, against the Royals in a 15-5 loss. "People paying their money don't deserve to have to watch a [position] player pitch," Acta said. Of course, given the hilarity of watching Marte facing the loaded Yankees, some would likely argue that they got their money's worth.