In 1935, Art “Moose” Doll caught three games for the Boston Braves. He went 1-for-10 in his appearances at the plate and never again caught a major league game. The following season, on Sept. 25, Doll pitched eight strong innings in a 3-2 loss to the New York Giants, easily the highlight of a fleeting major-league career.
More than 70 years would pass before another player would make the conversion from catcher to pitcher after reaching the major leagues as a catcher. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen made the switch in the minor leagues. Chris Hatcher, one of the Dodgers’ newest relievers, broke Doll’s record -- or perhaps anomaly is a better word -- three seasons ago.
Hatcher appeared in five games as a catcher for the Florida Marlins in 2010, going 0-for-8. The following spring, coaches talked him into becoming a pitcher. He made his major league debut from the mound the following June 17. Obviously, he had some aptitude for it if it only took him four months. Hatcher had pitched in high school and a handful of innings at North Carolina.
“They didn’t so much say it, but I got the sense the only way I could stay on the roster is if I converted,” Hatcher said. “I took it in stride and it turned out to be the best move probably.”
The Dodgers could be the beneficiary of Hatcher’s late career move, because though he is 29, there are fewer than 90 major league innings on his powerful right arm. He also won’t be arbitration eligible until 2017, meaning he’s under club control for the long haul. His average fastball velocity was 95.1 mph last year, according to Fangraphs. Hatcher will have a chance to break camp as the Dodgers’ primary right-handed setup man, if not the closer while Jansen is out.
“He was a guy we targeted,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said. “To start off the season, he may be even more important than we anticipated.”
Hatcher also came with baggage beyond those carrying his cleats and gloves. He reportedly broke teammate Sam Dyson’s jaw during a bar fight in Nashville, when both players were in the minor leagues early last season, and was handed a five-game suspension by the team. Hatcher declined to discuss the matter this week and Zaidi said the team looked into it.
“We have no concerns about that,” Zaidi said.