Trailblazing Moyer an inspiration in Rox camp
Veteran southpaw trying to make big league team in 25th season
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As pitchers and catchers got set to warm up before their first official workout at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Monday, Rockies strength coach Brian Jordan lined the players along the edge of the facility's agility field.
Jordan directed players to take off for warmup sprints in order of Major League service. He first called for anyone with 20 or more years.
Off went Jamie Moyer, all by himself.
When all the players had eventually gone down and back, Jordan then called for anyone with a World Series ring.
And off went Jamie Moyer, all by himself.
If there was any question how special the 49-year-old pitcher is, it took only minutes for players at Rockies camp to realize.
"What are we talking about, close to a quarter-century in the Major Leagues?" manager Jim Tracy said. "I've not met too many guys who have been in the big leagues for a quarter of a century. ... This is really special and this is a real starting point to head in the direction you want to head in and stay there for an extended period of time. That's the beauty in all of this."
The real beauty may be what Moyer has already accomplished over 24 Major League seasons, and what drives him back for more. He signed a Minor League contract with the Rockies this offseason after missing the entire 2011 campaign to recover from Tommy John surgery.
If he makes the big league club, Moyer will be baseball's active leader in wins, innings pitched and games started. But to get there, he must compete for a spot in the rotation with established starters like Jhoulys Chacin and Jeremy Guthrie, as well as promising youngsters like Tyler Chatwood, Alex White, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio, Guillermo Moscoso and Esmil Rogers.
"It's always competition, whether it's Spring Training or during the course of the season," Moyer said. "I like that competition. I enjoy it. I thrive on it. And obviously it's partially what keeps me going. It's nice to be able to come in here and compete with kids half my age. That's the challenge of it. I've worked hard through the rehab process to get myself back into shape, and here in the next couple days I'll probably get a good assessment of where I am."
The road back began in Poway, Calif., where Moyer said he threw for 11 teams, including Colorado. He threw twice more, and Colorado came again. He said once doctors deemed his surgery successful, he was given the option of how to rehab, and decided there would only be one way to do it -- the right way, with the intent to pitch again. Since doing so, he says the only thing remaining is to pitch competitively.
"It didn't look like he'd had a surgery," Tracy said after observing Moyer throw early this week. "When I watched the way the ball is carrying as he was preparing to throw his bullpen, he's an artist. He didn't come in here to see how many people he can strike out this spring. He came in here to get you out. That's what he does."
Tracy said that aspect of Moyer's game alone will prove valuable to the Rockies, whether or not Moyer toes a big league rubber. Chacin, one of the Rockies' most promising young arms, has pitched himself out of ballgames in the past by trying too hard for strikeouts, rather than simply retiring batters.
And therein lies Moyer's further role with the club -- the ability to mentor young players. His locker is next to the 22-year-old Chatwood and the newly-acquired Guthrie, who figures to be the team's Opening Day starter.
"There's a ton to be learned in terms of preparation, both physical and mental," Guthrie said. "And how does he succeed every five days, just learning from experiences that he may share on occasion."
Moyer sees it as part of his duty, one he intends to fulfill even if his time around the Rockies is only in the next few weeks in Scottsdale.
"As an older player, it's part of your responsibility to kind of pass the baton to the younger generation and the younger players and to share experiences," Moyer said. "As much as I can possibly give here, I can gain, too. It's not a one-way street. I'm always going to listen and learn and find a way to get better. This game, nobody's ever gonna master it."
Not even Moyer. That's why he's back for more sprints.