Thursday August 16, 1990
Coming into the afternoon game at Cleveland, Kirby Puckett had played 1,038 major league games. He had never taken the field at any position other than center field.
Tom Kelly decided to change things up a bit, putting the star player’s name in right field on the lineup card. The move was not a surprise, it had been suggested that Kelly would play Puckett in right on occasion to save his legs; but what was surprising was Kelly’s moves late in the game.
Puckett must have been comfortable in his new position because he was asked to try another new spot in the eighth inning. The unusual inning is logged at baseball-reference.com:
Bottom of the 8th, Indians Batting, Ahead 7-3, Tim Drummond facing 9-1-2 Tim Drummond replaces Roy Smith pitching; Kirby Puckett moves to SS; John Moses moves to RF --- 6 F Fermin Single to CF (Line Drive to CF) Kirby Puckett moves to 3B; Al Newman moves to SS O 1-- 1 A Cole Groundout: SS-1B (SS); Fermin to 2B Kirby Puckett moves to 2B; Al Newman moves to 3B; Nelson Liriano moves to SS O -2- 5 J Browne Lineout: SS (SS) O -2- 4 J Manto Flyball: CF (CF) 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 LOB. Twins 3, Indians 7.
Jeff Lenihan explained Kelly’s moves in the Star Tribune the next day.
His move to the infield in the eighth was no gimmick. John Moses had pinch hit for shortstop Greg Gagne in the top of the inning, creating a need for an additional infielder. Gary Gaetti, Brian Harper and Kent Hrbek, each of whom has played both first and third this season (Gaetti also has played short), were available, but manager Tom Kelly wanted to keep them eligible to pinch hit in the ninth. Hrbek later delivered a pinch single that pulled the Twins within two before Gaetti, the potential go-ahead run, grounded into a game-ending double play.
Kelly moved Puckett around the infield in an attempt to position him in the spot the Indians were least likely to hit the ball. After Puckett moved to second, he and right fielder John Moses nearly collided chasing Jeff Manto’s inning-ending pop. Moses made the catch. “I take a lot of grounders when we’re messing around before BP (batting practice),” Puckett said. “And then Johnny Mo wouldn’t let me have that popup I was calling for. Brutal.”
Despite the potential action, Puckett did not record any official defensive statistics in the infield. A similar scenario occurred three more times in Puckett’s career, twice in 1992, and again in 1995.
The Twins, pushing for their first postseason appearance in a decade, attempt to sure up their pitching staff be trading Matt Lawton to the Mets in exchange for Rick Reed. Reed struggled through the final few months of 2001 and the Twins missed the playoffs, but he was a key member of the rotation when the Twins finally did win the division in 2002. Reed’s name didn’t appear on the official Division Championship merchandise, however, because he was not a member of the player’s union due to his participation as a replacement player in the spring of 1995.
Born August 16, 1913
4 Major League games, 3.3 innings pitched, 0.00 lifetime ERA. Played for Washington in May of 1943.