RailCats Weekly: Danny Pulfer relishes role as utility man
By Michael Osipoff email@example.com or 713-2485 June 29, 2013 8:26PM
RailCats second baseman Danny Pulfer fields balls between innings against the Kansas City T-Bones at the Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., Wednesday, June 26, 2013. | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 2, 2013 7:18AM
GARY — Two for second base. One that’s a little bigger for the left side of the infield. A catcher’s mitt. And one for first base that arrived just this week, the same model as what he had been borrowing from teammate Craig Maddox.
Already the owner of five gloves, Danny Pulfer contemplated making it an even half-dozen.
“I actually debated on whether or not to get an outfielder’s glove, too, because Skip (manager Greg Tagert) keeps asking me, ‘Can you play outfield, can you play outfield?’” Pulfer said with a laugh. “I’m probably better at first base than I am at outfield.”
Pulfer is a natural second baseman. It’s his best position, where he feels most comfortable. It’s how he views himself.
But it hasn’t prevented the 23-year-old from flourishing as a jack of all trades with the RailCats.
Yes, he has started at first base for the team, even if he’s not exactly the prototype at a listed 5-foot-10, still acquitting himself well. No, he has not played in the outfield — yet.
Pulfer has started multiple games at third base, second and shortstop. And he’s the team’s No. 3 catcher, behind Maddox and Ryan Babineau in case of an emergency.
Pulfer’s success, along with the acquisition of Christian Vitters, mollified the RailCats’ decision to trade first baseman Steve Liddle.
“He’s so versatile, one of the things we talked about before the season is that he would bounce around the field for us,” Tagert said of Pulfer. “We didn’t envision this much first base, but he’s a tough guy to keep out of the lineup — he’s just done so many things to help this club win games, and we’re finding more and more ways to get him in the lineup.
“From a manager’s standpoint — and sometimes this isn’t the favorite thing a player wants to hear — his value to us was the fact he could do a lot of different things. … It’s working out very well for the club utilizing him in different roles.”
Also, with Tagert typically slotting the lineup by position, Pulfer’s spot in the order has varied depending upon the regular he’s replacing; he’s hit sixth, ninth, fifth, third and eighth. He’s handled those shifts with aplomb, too.
“He’s athletic, and he’s a tough out at the plate,” Tagert said of Pulfer, who set a RailCats record and tied an American Association record with five walks on May 19 against Lincoln. “He gives you everything he’s got in every at-bat; he’s going to go down battling.”
Pulfer hasn’t been a stranger to playing assorted positions, recalling that his travel team in high school rotated from second base to third to shortstop every inning.
During his All-Pac-10 career at Oregon — where he was a freshman in 2009, part of the first team following the reinstatement of the program, after it had been discontinued with the conclusion of the 1981 season — he mainly played second base. But he also saw time at third and a little bit at short in his first season with the Ducks.
The Arizona Diamondbacks selected him in the 19th round of the 2011 draft. He played second base exclusively in his first season in the organization; he primarily played there in his second season, too, but other positions were mixed in as well.
“Last year, I got really used to that, playing all the spots, so that’s really translated to this year,” Pulfer said.
“Playing around different spots, you can’t complain when you’re in the lineup.”