PHOENIX, Ariz. – Stopped at his locker inside the Arizona Diamondbacks clubhouse, Chris Herrmann paused for a moment before answering the question: When was the last time he played center field?
“High-A,” he said, smiling. “I was the starting center fielder for my High-A team Opening Day and probably about through half the year I was the starting center fielder.”
And that’s where Herrmann, the D-backs backup catcher, found himself on Sunday, manning center in the series finale against the San Francisco Giants.
Herrmann’s last professional appearance in center field came six years ago with the Fort Myers Miracle, April 25, 2010.
“It was kind of a weird combination center field and then catching as well,” he said, looking back at his time in the Minnesota Twins organization. “I can’t tell you how many teams I’ve had the opposing team be like, ‘you’re a catcher that plays center. That’s crazy. I’ve never seen that before.’
“It’s kind of cool. It’s going to bring back some memories.”
The D-backs turned to Herrmann as a way to “shake it up a little bit and have some fun,” according to manager Chip Hale, whose team entered play having lost four in a row.
Herrmann said he was approached about playing center the night before and then saw his name in the lineup Sunday morning once right fielder David Peralta was placed on the disabled list and Chris Owings was tabbed at shortstop, giving Nick Ahmed the day off.
“Is it going to be easy for him? No. Are we expecting him to be what C.O. has even been out there? Probably not, but we’ll go as long as we can,” Hale said. “He caught (all nine innings) last night so it’s not going to be all that easy either. His legs aren’t going to be feeling spry, but we’re trying something different.”
Herrmann became the first D-back to start at catcher and center field in the same season and the first to do so in the majors since Brandon Inge of the Detroit Tigers in 2008, according to STATS LLC.
“The toughest part is just the way the ball moves,” Herrmann said of playing center. “The ball is drifting to a certain way in right and left field, and I feel like in center field the ball is just going more straight.”
There is also a lot more ground to cover and the throws into the infield are longer as well, Herrmann added.
Herrmann does have nine innings of outfield experience this season. He played right field against Colorado on May 9, catching all five fly balls hit in his direction.
“I feel comfortable out there (in the outfield),” said Herrmann, who has made 12 starts behind the plate this season. “I’m going to try to make every play I can, that’s just my mentality. I don’t want to give up a base hit if I can’t reach it. I’m going to go after everything I can and be smart about it. It’s been awhile, so just be smart about it and do everything I can to help my pitchers and save them from giving up hits.”