Lemon Would Be Open to Playing Outfield on Off Days

May 8, 1948

The Indians’ offense is off to a fine start, leading the Tribe to several victories when its starting pitching has faltered.

However, the Indians might not be using one of their best offensive threats as much as they potentially could.

While 3-1 on the mound after last night’s four-hit shutout, Bob Lemon is hitting .533 at the plate on the season and has eight hits in 15 at-bats. Two of his eight hits are home runs. Last night, Lemon did not homer, but he did have three hits to help the Indian offense. He and Joe Gordon helped pace the Tribe with three hits each.

According to Lemon, playing the center field on days he does not pitch sounds “just dandy” to him if Indians manager Lou Boudreau decides to make the move. Lemon did play two games in the outfield last year, only as a defensive replacement. In 1947, he did hit .321 in 56 at-bats with two home runs. Two years ago, Lemon made 12 starts in center field before transitioning to a pitcher. Lemon struggled as an infielder before the war and could not get regular time in the outfield after the war.

Lemon already participates in batter practice each day. Normally he can be found taking ground balls at third base, shagging fly balls in the outfield, or taking relay throws at first base from fellow infielders. He uses his arm daily more than any other pitcher.

“No other pitcher in baseball treats his arm the way that guy does,” one player remarked the other day. “If my arm was worth as much as his I wouldn’t be throwing the ball around the infield like that.”

Lemon is making $12,000 this season, his largest salary in his career.

His spot in the center of the diamond is now solidified as he took the lead for wins last night with three. He and Bob Feller have been the only reliable starting pitchers in this young season, so playing Lemon in the field on off days could be a gamble to an already thin pitching staff. It’s a decision and option Boudreau could consider soon, however.

Photo: biography.com

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