Stottlemyre offers hitting expertise
Mariners pitching coach could handle the bat in his day
NEW YORK -- Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre knows pitching, and he apparently also knows a thing or two about hitting.He has been working with the Mariners' pitchers as hitters, mostly on bunting techniques. And after the first five Interleague games played in National League ballparks, Seattle hurlers were batting .300 (3-for-10) with one home run -- a grand slam by Felix Hernandez against the Mets on Monday night at Shea Stadium. "I was surprised he hit a home run, but I was not surprised at all that he hit the ball hard," Stottlemyre said. "In fact, I was talking to [bench coach] Lee Elia when Felix was walking to the plate, and he asked me, 'Can he swing?' I told Lee, 'Yes, he can swing the bat pretty good,' and the next thing, boom, the ball was gone.
"Lee looked at me and said, 'I guess he can.'"Stottlemyre played mostly during an era -- 1964-74 -- when pitchers batted for themselves. American League owners adopted the designated-hitter rule prior to the 1973 season, the next-to-last year of Stottlemyre's 360-game MLB playing career with the Yankees. Although he batted just .160 (120-for-749) overall, Stottlemyre had his moments with the bat -- the most memorable occurring on a fall afternoon at D.C. Stadium. The date was Sept. 26, 1964. The opponent was the Washington Senators, and Stottlemyre went 5-for-5, drove in two runs and pitched a shutout. "That was one of those days I couldn't do anything wrong, pitching or hitting," Stottlemyre recalled. "That was a special day. I gave up two hits and collected five." Mickey Mantle went 0-for-4 in that game, a fact that still brings a wry smile to Stottlemyre's face. "I hit well enough during my first year  that the first pitch wasn't always a fastball," Stottlemyre said. "They started curving me and it was all over." Indeed. After batting .243 (9-for-37) in his rookie season, the right-hander who won 164 big league regular-season games and one World Series game, went 111-for-712 (.156) for the remainder of his career, hitting seven home runs and driving in 57 runs. One of those home runs and four of the RBIs came on one swing. The Hernandez slam -- the first home run by a Mariners pitcher in franchise history -- probably was more out of the blue than the grand slam Stottlemyre hit against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on July 20, 1965. "They were playing me the wrong way," Stottlemyre recalled. "[Carl] Yastrzemski in left field was playing me very shallow, and a little bit to pull. I guess they were trying to protect against a little short popup. "The center fielder was Reggie Smith, and he was playing me toward right-center. There was a huge gap in left-center. It was a line drive that went to the wall and bounced back. I could run decent at that time, some 35-40 pounds lighter than I am now. I am pretty modest, but I'm one of the few guys that can say he pinch-ran for Mickey Mantle a few times. His knees were bad.
"I wanted to stop at third, but Frank Crosetti, the third-base coach, waved me on. I had to slide -- it was a fall."It also was an inside-the-park home run, one of two home runs Stottlemyre hit that season, and one of just 40 inside-the-park grand slams in the Major Leagues since 1950.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.