ST. LOUIS -- Rob Johnson's brief pitching appearance on Wednesday marked the first time in Mike Matheny's managerial tenure that he has asked a position player to take the mound.
Johnson, who has now made two relief appearances in his big league career, began preparing for the possibility of pitching in the fifth inning. He threw in the batting cage to get loose and later warmed up in the bullpen as Keith Butler labored through a 45-pitch ninth inning.
With Butler unable to secure the third out of the frame, Matheny called upon his backup catcher to face Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez
"We have a lot of pitchers that petition to be position players, and every once in a while, you get a position player that lets it be known he's not afraid to go to the mound," Matheny said. "Rob has done it in the past, so we knew that he would be ready to go."
Other than a few innings during his junior college days, Johnson's pitching background is limited. He threw a bullpen session while with San Diego in 2011 just to see what came of it. He ended up hitting 92 mph on the radar gun.
In 2012, Johnson pitched a scoreless inning in the Mets' 14-5 loss at Toronto. On Wednesday he started Rodriguez with two changeups, then secured the strikeout with two fastballs. His third pitch of the at-bat registered 90 mph on the stadium radar gun.
Asked if he looked up to see that figure, Johnson answered, "Absolutely."
"Previous to last year's outing, I had gotten on the mound a couple of times," he added. "This year I hadn't gotten on the mound at all. It was a little funky. I felt like I was using all arm. I was just trying to throw strikes."
By having Johnson close out the ninth, Matheny was able to avoid using a fourth member of the bullpen to cover for Shelby Miller's early exit. As a result the Cardinals entered Thursday's game with a relatively fresh bullpen.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.