Notes: Michalak happy to be in bigs

Notes: Michalak happy to be in bigs

PHILADELPHIA -- Just hours after journeyman pitcher Chris Michalak was called up to the Reds on Saturday, manager Jerry Narron was asked to describe the 35-year-old pitcher.

"Stuff-wise, he'd probably be considered a crafty left-hander," Narron said.

Michalak, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2002, was willing to translate.

"I think what it means is that I don't throw very hard," Michalak said. "That tag's followed me for a long time."

A long time is right. Michalak, who relies on a sinker and changeup, has been with 10 different organizations over the course of his 14-year career. He's enjoyed stints in the Majors for Arizona, Toronto and, most recently, Texas in 2001-02.

He was signed by the Reds in the offseason, and had been pitching well for Triple-A Louisville. Michalak was 9-5 with a 2.99 ERA before getting the call from Bats manager Rick Sweet on Saturday around midnight ET.

"He said, 'This is the call you've been waiting for,'" Michalak said. "It's just everything I play for -- the reason I keep grinding it out year after year."

The Reds needed to make a roster move when reliever Kent Mercker returned to the disabled list with soreness in his left elbow. Mercker was activated just five days earlier and now begins his third stint on the disabled list with the same ailment.

"Mercker last week said he felt ready to go, and I definitely believed that," Narron said. "I definitely had all the confidence in the world and I love seeing him on the mound. I just hope I didn't put pressure on him to come back earlier than he should."

Michalak was not on the Reds' 40-man roster, so to make room, the club designated shortstop William Bergolla for assignment. Bergolla had been hitting .269 in 98 games at Triple-A.

"I've been around a long time; I know how things go," Michalak said. "I know when you're not on the 40-man roster, things really have to fall into place to be given a shot."

Once things did fall into place, it meant Michalak had to leave his Charlotte hotel at 5:45 a.m. on Saturday for a 7:45 flight to Philadelphia. He arrived in plenty of time, but had no idea what his role will be with the big club. He came on in relief of starter Elizardo Ramirez in Saturday night's game.

"They just told me to be ready to throw," he said.

Idling: As reliever after reliever and eventually starter after starter paraded onto the field at Citizens Bank in Friday's 14-inning battle, Rheal Cormier sat and sat in the bullpen.

Cormier was unavailable after tweaking his right hip fielding a bunt in his last outing on Thursday against St. Louis. It was the second time in two years that he's sustained that injury, the last being on the mound in Washington as a member of the Phillies.

Cormier said before Saturday's game that he felt better, but he was still unsure whether he'd be available to pitch out of the bullpen.

The irony for the lefty was that it was the second time this season that he's been stranded for a long evening in the 'pen. When the Phillies went 16 innings with the Mets on May 23, Cormier was unavailable after taking a cortisone shot in his throwing shoulder. Phils starter-turned-reliever Ryan Madson was forced to pitch the final seven innings that night.

Alone in the bullpen on Friday night, Cormier was caught by television cameras coloring a baseball to pass the time.

Major respect: Ryan Howard, coming into his two-on, nobody-out plate appearance in the 14th inning on Friday, was batting just .236 with runners in scoring position.

That didn't matter one bit to Narron, who took the route he took in Howard's last two trips, walking the Phillies slugger intentionally.

"I don't care what it is," Narron said of Howard's average in the key spots. "All I know is when he steps in that box, he's in scoring position."

"It's a compliment, I guess, if the coach is looking at you like that, to where they're going to walk you to load the bases and put the winning run on," Howard said. "But the competitive spirit within wants to go out there and do something."

The walk to Howard loaded the bases for pitcher Aaron Fultz, who lined out. Aaron Rowand followed with a game-winning RBI single.

"You've got a pitcher hitting behind him," Narron said. "We were hoping for a strikeout and a double play and get out of it. Everybody in baseball knows what kind of hitter [Howard] is. He's one of the best RBI guys in baseball. I think it's a no-brainer."

Silver slugger: Lost in Friday night's game was pitcher Eric Milton's historic feat. With no bench players left, Milton came up to pinch-hit in the 13th and delivered an infield single off Phillies pitcher Geoff Geary's leg.

The hit loaded the bases, but if it had been a foot in either direction, it would likely have given the Reds the go-ahead run.

"I thought that ball was through," Narron said.

Milton, on the other hand, disagreed.

"No, I saw it go off his leg," Milton said. "It's just unfortunate."

Nonetheless, it will go down as the Reds' first successful pinch-hit by a pitcher since Oct. 1, 1978, when Paul Moskau delivered a single against the Braves.

Did you know? Ramirez finished Friday night's game and then started Saturday's. Odd as that may be, it's not the strangest part.

The last man to finish one game and start the next, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was Kyle Lohse, who was the starter in Friday's wild affair.

But the circumstances were very different.

Back on Oct. 3, 2004, Lohse's Twins were completing a game that had been suspended in the 11th the day before because of a University of Minnesota football game that night at the Metrodome.

Lohse pitched the 12th inning on Oct. 3 and started the regularly scheduled game which began immediately after. He got the win in the first game when Michael Cuddyer followed Lohse's scoreless inning with a walk-off double. He then took the loss in the second game, going four innings and allowing three runs before leaving with a hand injury.

Up next: The Reds finish their series with the Phillies on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET before their bullpen can enjoy a much-needed off-day on Monday. Milton, who has a 2.70 ERA in his last three starts, opposes Phillies ace Brett Myers, who comes in 8-5 with a 3.95 ERA.

Zachary Levine is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.