A Lou Piniella Story to Commemorate His Retirement

When Lou Piniella put one of his pitchers, Sean Marshall, into left field for a batter in a game last year so he could keep him in the game and let him face the next couple batters, the announcer noted that he’d pulled a similar double switch on July 15, 1993, with Jeff Nelson, the former Mariners and Yankees reliever. I put together a long post about it at the time.

But now, with Lou having just managed his last MLB game, and facing what seems to be the imminent death of his mother, it's a good time to present the story again, to remember his unique style of managing. This, from the Tacoma News Tribune of July 16, 1993:

Lou Piniella manages one way – to win – though on Thursday he managed to confuse four umpires, the Boston Red Sox and more than a few of his own Seattle Mariners.

In the eighth inning of a one-run game, trying to nurse home a lead without closer Norm Charlton, Piniella brought in left-hander Dennis Powell to face one batter.

Instead of sending right-hander Jeff Nelson to the clubhouse when Powell entered the game, however, Piniella sent him to left field – enabling him to bring Nelson back to the mound.

All that worked, though the last out of the game was recorded by rookie Mike Hampton, whose first career save preserved Seattle’s 3-2 victory over Boston and continued a Mariners winning streak that has now reached six games.

“I’ve seen that move in the National League, but never in the American League,” Piniella said of his unorthodox plays. “In the National League, it’s just a one-for-one switch, but I knew over here it involved the designated hitter somewhere.”

When Piniella told home-plate umpire Durwood Merrill what he had in mind in the eighth inning, Merrill huddled for nearly two minutes with his crew – long enough to bring Sox manager Butch Hobson out of his dugout to see just what was happening.

“There was a little confusion, but they figured it out,” Piniella said.

“In 17 years in the big leagues, I’ve never seen that,” Merrill admitted afterward.

“I had no idea what he was doing – none,” Ken Griffey Jr. said. “But when I saw Jeff Nelson going to left field I just started smiling.”

When Butch Hobson opened the eighth by sending out right-handed pinch hitter Carlos Quintana, Piniella countered with Nelson, who got the first two batters he faced and should have gotten the third. But Tino Martinez dropped Billy Hatcher’s foul pop-up near the Red Sox dugout, and Hatcher followed with a single.
Up came left-handed hitting Mike Greenwell. Out of the Seattle dugout came Piniella. And the fun began.

By sending Nelson into left field and letting Dennis Powell pitch to Greenwell, Piniella lost his starting left fielder – Greg Litton – and the use of his DH for the night. But after Powell retired Greenwell, Piniella was able to use Nelson again in the ninth inning.

On the mound.

“I didn’t have a clue what Lou was doing when he started talking to the umpires,” Nelson said. “Then he told me to go out to left field. I haven’t played the outfield since Legion ball in ’84.”

"He shags real well during batting practice,” Piniella said, then grinned. “But the first thing I told Powell was `Don’t let ‘em hit it to left.’"

Powell didn’t, getting Greenwell to pop to second base.

Came the ninth inning, and Nelson got Andre Dawson and Bob Melvin before Martinez booted a Nelson Riles grounder for an error to bring up the go-ahead run in left-handed hitting Scott Cooper.

Out came Piniella again, and this time Nelson was pulled entirely for Hampton.

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