Jamie Moyer's comeback this spring with the Colorado Rockies hasn't gone brilliantly, yet. But of course it's something of a miracle that he's pitching at all. Considering, you know, that he's coming off major elbow surgery. And is 49 years old.
One thing you might have forgotten about Jamie Moyer -- I forgot it, anyway -- is that in 1991 he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, managed by Joe Torre. And you wouldn't be the only one. Tyler Kepner:
It was so forgettable that Torre, as the Yankees’ manager, would claim that Moyer had pitched for him only in spring training. But Moyer never forgot.
"I know at least two or three of those starts, I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and I got tally-whacked around," Moyer said. "But I do remember pitching a couple good games and losing. So I was 0-5 after seven starts, and I get called into the office. We’re in Pittsburgh, I had a horrible night the night before, I think Bonds might have hit two home runs off me, and I know what’s going to happen.
"Joe Torre is the manager, and he looks at me and says, ‘This is really tough.’ But waiting in the wings was Omar Olivares, who was their big prospect at the time. And Joe looked at me and he said — I remember it as if it was yesterday – ‘We don’t win when you pitch.’
"I’m thinking to myself, ‘O.K., Joe, not that I’m a good hitter, but I don’t hit in those other eight spots.’ I took it as though he didn’t know what to tell me. I was right shy of five years. I was a little bit bitter.
Moyer's memory is fine, 21 years later. He did give up two home runs, both to Bonds, in the second and third innings. And the pitch that Bonds hit for the second homer was the last pitch Moyer threw for the St. Louis Cardinals.
You can't blame for Moyer for being bitter, at the time. Getting fired from your job's no fun. But you can't really blame Torre for firing Moyer, either. At the time, his ERA stood at 5.74 and he'd walked 16 batters in 31 innings. Yes, he'd pitched a few decent games -- Game Scores of 65, 56, 53, 46 -- and could easily have won a couple of them. The problem was that he was either decent or terrible in his seven starts, but never excellent.
And there wasn't any reason to think he would ever be excellent, even for a short stretch. At that point, Moyer had thrown exactly 700 innings in the majors, with a 4.56 ERA and 1.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In those (and these) days, you could get away with the latter figure only if you were particularly good at limiting home runs, and Moyer wasn't.
He simply hadn't learned to pitch effectively with his limited stuff, and really wouldn't learn until two years later, when he pitched for the Orioles' triple-A affiliate. He was 30, and nobody could have guessed, however wildly, that 19 years later he would be bidding for a spot in a major-league rotation.
The bid continues tomorrow night, when Moyer makes just second start this spring against big-league hitters. His time is growing short, his tooth growing long.