Kratz presed into action to spare bullpen

Kratz presed into action to spare bullpen

SEATTLE -- The last thing a manager wants to do is put a position player on the mound, but it became a necessary evil for A.J. Hinch of the Astros in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 11-1 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field.

With the game out of hand and Astros long reliever Michael Feliz having thrown 42 pitches en route to giving up four runs in the seventh, Hinch turned to backup catcher Erik Kratz to work the eighth. He allowed three hits and two runs (one earned) in one inning and threw a couple of wild pitches, but it could have been worse.

"I didn't walk anybody," he said. "I was satisfied my elbow stayed together. I'd like to one day get on the mound and let one [fly], but I'd like to also keep playing my career, too."

Kratz, acquired by the Astros at the end of Spring Training after Max Stassi had to undergo surgery to remove the hamate bone in his left hand, was hitting 84-85 mph with his "fastball" in his 27-pitch outing, and even mixed in a few knuckleballs.

"I just always enjoyed throwing them, but it's something. The fastball wasn't getting anybody out and [catcher Jason Castro] put it down and it's time to throw something new," Kratz said.

Kratz, who pitched six innings in the Minor Leagues (including a loss and a save), was told to warm up in the eighth in the bullpen in case the Astros needed him.

"I wasn't going to put Feliz in danger after 40-plus pitches in an inning," Hinch said. "The rest of the bullpen has been taxed, we have a game tomorrow, we're down by eight runs. It certainly wasn't trending in our direction. A position player goes out there and it's an unfortunate necessity we created for ourselves."

One of Kratz's wild pitches sailed way over the head of Castro, causing a few chuckles in the Astros' dugout. Kratz, who broke an 0-for-15 slump with a bunt hit Monday, said he tried to have fun with it.

"It's not a situation that I want to be in," he said. "We're behind, but it's something that hopefully can save some of those guys' arms. It's the role of the backup catcher. You do what you can -- stuff that doesn't show up it the stat line -- to hopefully in the end help the team."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.