Pittsburgh Pirates: Three More Forgotten Position Changes
Transitions Not With The Pirates
Jim Rooker - Outfielder to Pitcher
This transition didn’t happen in the Pirates’ system, but instead the Detroit Tigers’. Jim Rooker was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates for eight years from 1973 to 1980. In total, Rooker pitched 1317.2 innings, working to the tune of a 3.29 ERA (111 ERA+), 3.71 FIP, and 1.295 WHIP. But Rooker started his pro career out as an outfielder for the Tigers. From 1961-1964, Rooker appeared as an outfielder/pitcher. He wasn’t terrible with the bat, posting an OPS of .790 or greater in three of the four seasons. But by 1965, he had fully transitioned to the mound. Rooker did make an appearance in the outfield, making a brief two-inning cameo in 1970 with the Kansas City Royals. He also hit four home runs the year prior, and batted over .300 with an OPS+ of 110 in 1974 with the Bucs.
Russell Martin - Third Base to Catcher
Most of the time, you see players get drafted as catchers and moved out of the position later on. Rarely does the opposite happen. But that’s the move Russell Martin took early in his pro career. Like Rooker, this wasn’t with the Pirates, but with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early-2000s. In 2002, Martin took the field a total of 41 times: 40 times as a third baseman and once as a shortstop. But in 2003, he made the full transition to catcher. Martin then went on to become a four-time all-star catcher with a Gold Glove, +131 defensive runs saved (the second most by a catcher), and one of the most underrated catchers of the current generation. Martin appeared at a few games at third base (including with the Pirates), and a handful at the hot corner late in his career with the Toronto Blue Jays.