ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Dean Anna is a shortstop by trade and a ball player by nature, but he hadn't thrown a pitch, he figured, since he was an 11-year-old Little Leaguer back in Harvey, Ill.
So when New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi told him Saturday night that he was his eighth-inning guy, Anna wasn't quite sure what to think. Or to feel.
Anna knew it wasn't an opportunity, or an honor, since the Yankees were in the midst of being crushed 16-1 by the Tampa Bay Rays -- although the score was a mere 14-1 when Anna got the call.
And when he left the mound, after a relatively quick, but not uneventful, inning, here was his self-assessment: "I thought I did all right. I thought I was going to hold them to the last two, but then a guy got a base hit. I don't really remember it anymore."
By the numbers, Anna struck out as many batters as Dellin Betances (zero), allowed one-quarter of the runs allowed (two) by starter Ivan Nova, got one swing-and-miss (on a 60 mph pitch to James Loney) and extended the misery of David DeJesus, who came to the plate zero for his past 22 and left 0-for-23 after popping out to the infield.
"Oh, nice," Anna said. "I guess I did my job."
But Anna knew the truth: "When you see me in there, it's not a good day for us."
This was a miserable day for the Yankees. Nova allowed eight runs, including four home runs, and left in the fifth inning with an elbow injury, the severity of which has yet to be determined. He was followed by Matt Daley, called up earlier in the day, then allowed six runs (although only four were earned), including a long home run to Wil Myers.
Betances wasn't charged with any runs but had a recurrence of the control problems that periodically plague him, issuing a bases-loaded walk to Ryan Hanigan. When Betances finally ended the seventh inning by striking out DeJesus, Girardi decided to save the remainder of his bullpen for Sunday's series finale, which will be started by emergency starter Vidal Nuno.
That's when Girardi approached Anna and told him he would be the first Yankees position player to take the mound since last May 15, when Girardi called upon another shortstop, Alberto Gonzalez, to get the final out of the ninth inning in a game the Yankees were losing 12-2 to the Seattle Mariners. Gonzalez obliged by getting Robert Andino to fly out to center field.
Girardi had specific instructions for Anna: "Just do not get hurt. Lob it in. I don't want to have to come out there and yell at you because you're throwing too hard. Just play catch." Anna followed the instructions to the letter. He threw 17 pitches, 14 of them for strikes.
"Someone told me I topped out at 72 [miles per hour]," he said, laughing. "I probably could have hit 85 or 86 if I aired it out."
After suffering the embarrassment of the swing-and-miss, Loney stroked a single to right. Myers then doubled to left, sending Loney to third. After getting Sean Rodriguez to pop out and Logan Forsythe to line out to left, Hanigan delivered the two-run single that drove Anna's ERA to 18.00, from which it will likely never retreat.
"When I do lessons back home, that's actually how I throw: just a nice little flick in there," said Anna, who works with young ball players at a baseball camp near Chicago in the offseason. "It was actually pretty easy throwing strikes and stuff like that, but it's not fun when I'm out there. Not fun at all."