Jamie Moyer, Phillies' 47-year-old pitcher, prepares for another season
Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer, the major leagues' oldest player at 47, had a rough offseason but is healthy now and competing with Kyle Kendrick for a spot in the rotation.
Seattle Times baseball reporter
CLEARWATER, Fla. — It has been 26 years since Jamie Moyer reported to his first spring-training camp, and 19 years since the Cubs became the third team to release him, gently suggesting he become a minor-league pitching coach.
Check that — an assistant minor-league pitching coach.
It has been nearly 14 years since the Mariners sent Darren Bragg to Boston in exchange for Moyer, one of their best trades ever. Nine years since he pitched on Seattle's 116-win juggernaut, seven years since he made his first and only All-Star team at the age of 40, and three-plus years since the M's decided it was time for a younger arm in the rotation.
They sent Moyer on to Philadelphia, where rings, adulation, victories and even a multiyear contract ensued.
So it is no wonder that Moyer, now 47 and, in his words, "playing on borrowed time," brings some veteran wisdom to his current situation, as dicey as any since those career-survival days of the early 1990s.
Moyer, who is at 258 victories and (hopefully) counting, is coming back from the first three surgeries of his career, all in a taxing four-month span that culminated with a knee operation last month.
He is also battling Mount Vernon's Kyle Kendrick for the Phils' fifth starting job, having been unceremoniously yanked from their rotation last summer when they acquired Pedro Martinez.
But Moyer doesn't see his task in terms of job battles, any more than he sees his status as MLB's senior statesman — with an $8 million guaranteed contract — bringing him any sort of job entitlement.
"I've always believed, regardless of what type of contract you're under, maybe you're solidified with a job, but a job can always be lost or taken, or you can be traded or released.
"My whole career has been, you've got to work and you've got to earn. I feel that's a healthy way to look at things. If you start to assume and expect, things are going to start to pass you by. Especially now in the latter part of my career, I want to be able to enjoy it. But I also like to still feel I have to earn it."
Moyer's health ordeal dates to late September, when he tore tendons in his groin and abdominal muscle in a Sept. 29 appearance against Houston. He had surgery Oct. 2, followed by all sorts of nightmarish complications. Moyer had never before gone under the knife, but as he said, "I think I made up for it this winter."
First came a blood infection that landed him back in the hospital, right about the time the Phillies were beginning their unsuccessful World Series title defense. They won a second straight National League pennant but lost to the Yankees in six games.
Just when Moyer thought he had fought off the infection, he began feeling severe pain in his lower back and buttocks in November, and went back into the hospital. After considerable testing and blood work, an abscess was discovered in his groin, requiring another surgery to remove it. That was followed by a staph infection that required another six-week regimen of antibiotics to knock it out.
Oh, yeah — after all that came a previously scheduled knee surgery in January, which Moyer calls "the easiest part. A week later, I was back to full strength."
All that trauma might have been seen by some as a sign that it was finally time to hang it up. Especially for someone whose major-league career began in the Reagan administration.
Not Moyer, who still finds joy in mundane activities like the PFP drills (pitcher's fielding practice) he undertook for what must have been the thousandth, or perhaps ten-thousandth, time on Wednesday. Moyer has been cleared for almost full participation, and is on track to be ready for another opening day.
"Being in the clubhouse here with the guys, it's a lot of fun," Moyer said. "We have a good group of guys — guys that know how to play the game, and want to play the game. We know how to win, which is nice. When you add all that up, it points us in the direction of the success we've had the past couple of years.
"That's hard to walk away from. Throughout my career, I've played on some very talented teams that didn't know how to win, didn't know how to play together. And that's unfortunate. And I've played on some teams that things just didn't go our way, and we didn't win. And I played on many teams that were a lot like this team in Seattle. When you have these opportunities, you really want to enjoy and make the best it and savor it."
So, what the heck, Moyer isn't even ruling out coming back in 2011, at age 48.
"I'm not even going to think about next year until this year's over," he said. "Hopefully, I'll get through this season healthy and contributing. If I feel like I've been able to accomplish that, it (playing another year) is something I would consider."
Moyer, wife Karen and their seven children have moved from Seattle to Bradenton, Fla., primarily so his two oldest sons, Dylan and Hutton, could enroll in the IMG Baseball Academy, an offshoot of the famous Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Dylan, a senior in high school, will play baseball (he's an infielder) next year at UC Irvine.
Jamie and Karen remain involved with the Moyer Foundation, and he says their working plan is to later summer in Seattle and spend the school year in Florida.
That arrangement, he said, will come "eventually in retirement" — a theoretical reality for the eternal Jamie Moyer. For now, he's marveling at the revival of the Mariners; when the possibility of a Seattle-Philadelphia World Series is posed, he laughed.
"That would be pretty cool. A lot of travel, but pretty cool."
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.
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