Three weeks away from his 49th birthday and more than a year after undergoing ‘Tommy John’ surgery, Jamie Moyer is throwing again and believes he will start the 2012 season in the rotation of a big league team.
Pat Gillick has seen Moyer throw and says it’s no pipedream.
“I’ll be frank - he looked just like he always has,” Gillick said of a bullpen session he observed. “I think he’ll pitch again.”
From the time he walked off the mound in June, 2010, the former Seattle Mariners ace has been committed to another improbable achievement in coming back.
“I’ve been throwing since April, and throwing bullpens the past seven weeks,” Moyer said. “I’m throwing two bullpens a week.
“When I threw my first bullpen - 20 pitches - it was like I had a brand new arm. I was amazed how good I felt.”
A soft-throwing left-handed pitcher who made his big-league debut in 1986, Moyer’s greatest success came after he was traded to the Seattle Mariners 10 years later at age 33.
Since then, he’s won 201 games - 145 with Seattle - and has 267 victories in a career spent working with a changeup as his out pitch.
After watching him throw, Gillick did more than encourage Moyer. He made a telephone call.
“I told him I thought he ought to be in the American League,” Gillick said. “He hasn’t pitched there for what, five years? A lot of hitters haven’t seen him. That would be to his benefit.
“I’ll tell you how good I thought he looked: I made a call for him, contacted a team that knows about him, that has a need.”
Moyer said all he wants is a legitimate chance, and is open to any team.
‘I’m going to reach out to clubs, tell them I’m throwing again, and tell them where to come see me throw if they have interest,” Moyer said.
“It would be pretty easy negotiation. All I want it the opportunity to come to spring training with the chance to compete for a starting job. I want to pitch. I wouldn’t go to a team I didn’t have a chance to make.”
Could a return to the Mariners, for whom he last pitched in 2006, be a possibility?
“I want to pitch,“ Moyer said. “I don’t know what their needs are.”
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said the Mariners weren’t the team Gillick called, but beyond that said he wouldn’t comment on Moyer or any other free agent.
Moyer’s comeback effort began, he said, as he was wheeled to a hospital room from a post-op room.
“The first thing I asked the doctor about was the rehab process,” Moyer said. “I already knew all about the surgery.
“I’ve heard I’m too old, too slow - there are always people with negative assumptions. But I’ve also heard from a lot of people my age who think what I’m trying to do is pretty cool - people who work for a living and go to gyms and try to stay competitive in whatever they do.
“If I can help them keep a focus, great,” Moyer said. “I appreciate their encouragement.
Where is he in the process?
“If this was the regular season, I’d be ready for a rehab assignment. I feel like I felt every season around May or June - real, real good,” Moyer said.
“If I came back and pitched one healthy inning and thought, ‘I’ve had enough,’ I’d know I made it back. My goal is to face hitters again - major league hitters - and get them out.
“I’ve been a pretty consistent pitcher, and whether you throw 95 mph or 55 mph, all that matters is getting outs. I’ve gotten a lot of outs, pitched a lot of innings,” Moyer said.
“I think I can start and help someone win.”
Gillick, a former pitcher - and a Hall of Famer as a front office executive - agreed.
“He’s in better shape now than he was in 2008, and he won 16 games for the Phillies that year,” Gillick said.