The last time we checked in on Charlie Culberson, he was missing in action. After being designated for assignment following the acquisition of Nicky Lopez, the Braves fan favorite had elected for free agency but had signed a minor league deal soon after.
Although Culberson appeared earlier this season as a position player, he might be a pitcher now. If he is truly converting to become a pitcher, is it too late considering his age?
(Spoiler alert: no, there's a player who did it just nine years ago who returned to the majors as a 37-year-old.)
Charlie goes M.I.A. and then returns as a... pitcher?
After re-signing with the Braves organization, the utility player was promptly placed on the Development List which is a designation for players who aren't injured but need "development." For a 34-year-old MLB veteran, it essentially meant Gwinnett enjoyed Culberson's presence but not necessarily his skill level.
For the next 42 days, this is where Culberson stayed. He wasn't activated until September 16. He got into game action the following day. But, instead of playing 3B, LF, or even 1B, Culberson took his spot on the mound.
Of course, this isn't his first time on a pitcher's mound. In the majors, he's appeared in eight games over five seasons and had some success, albeit in a small sample size. His career ERA in the bigs is 1.23.
This pitching appearance isn't even Culby's first appearance as a pitcher with Gwinnett this year, as he pitched on April 2 in the 10th inning of a shootout.
What made his September 17 appearance so odd was that it wasn't in an extra inning game that required the team to clear out all of their relievers, nor was it a blowout game where Gwinnett just needed a position player to get through an inning and save an arm.
It was in the 4th inning.
Yes, this was the second game of a doubleheader but minor league doubleheaders are only seven innings long, and it was the 4th inning. Culberson only pitched one inning, and then two other relievers came into the game afterward.
Did I mention he also struck out a batter?
Three days later, Culberson found himself back on the mound. While this was a blowout, as he came into the game in the 9th inning of a 10-0 game, Culberson still struck out two batters, although he also allowed three hits and a run.
These are the only two games he's played since returning to Gwinnett's active roster. He has yet to play a position other than pitcher or receive an at-bat.
He isn't lobbing balls over the plate like most position players either. To an uninformed viewer, he looks like a pitcher.
While he has a 6.00 ERA in his three innings pitched, his 12K/9 factors into his 2.90 FIP. These, of course, are incredibly small sample sizes, but it does show he's at least capable of pitching.
UPDATE: Culberson appeared in another game for the Stripers on Saturday. He relieved Hurtson Waldrep and finished with a line of 0.2 IP, 1 H, and 1 K.
However, Culberson is already 34-years-old. Could it be too late in his career to make a switch? Jason Lane didn't think so.