At 49, Moyer looks like he's 47 again (and that's a compliment)

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Years back, we laughed at Jamie Moyer because he was old.

Now we root for him because he makes us feel just a little younger.

That's true, isn't it? If you're anywhere north of 40 yourself, you love the idea that Jamie Moyer just might be able to pitch in the major leagues in the same year that he'll turn 50.

Two starts into this spring tryout with the Rockies, it's beginning to look like he could.

Moyer worked three impressive innings Sunday against the White Sox, and so far this spring he has pitched five innings and allowed just a single run on four hits. He's throwing 79 mph fastballs and 64 mph changeups, which only means that at age 49 he looks basically like he did when he was 47.

"Looks like he did [in 2010] to me," said one rival scout who watched him Sunday.

And in 2010, Moyer was 9-6 with a 4.30 ERA in his first 15 starts for the Phillies, before his elbow started killing him and his performance suffered.

He's had Tommy John surgery since then, choosing to go through the aggressive rehabilitation program that would allow him to throw a baseball again. He had a summer off from baseball for the first time in 40 years, said he enjoyed it and then decided to try to come back and pitch again, anyway.

If you ask why, he asks why not?

"Why should I retire if I enjoy what I'm doing and I can compete? . . . If I didn't come to spring training 2012, I'd be asking myself that question until I die."

There are signs already that he can still get major-league hitters out with his combination of near-perfect location and superior guile. Sunday, he faced three hitters from the White Sox's regular lineup, and those three went 0-for-4 against him with an A.J. Pierzynski strikeout (looking, on a Moyer fastball set up by changeups).

He amazes teammates with those ultra-slow changeups.

"You don't think the ball can stay in the air that long," Jason Giambi said.

He impresses everyone by just showing up and competing years after his contemporaries have retired.

"He's an inspiration for all of us," the 41-year-old Giambi said. "He makes me feel young."

He has a kid who is 20, and a teammate who is 20.

"He makes an effort to hang out with the young kids," Giambi said. "He probably calls home and asks, 'Tell me what's cool.'"

He understands the situation, understands there are no guarantees. But he also reminds you that's nothing new for a guy who couldn't even get an invitation to big-league spring training when he pitched all season with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens . . . 20 years ago . . . at age 29.

Moyer has 233 big-league wins since then, including a 21-win season at age 40. He has pitched in the All-Star Game and the World Series.

But because he was old (even then) and didn't throw hard (even then), he never had the feeling of having it made.

"I've kind of looked at my whole career as a spring training invite," he said.

Now it really is, an invite without guarantees. Moyer said he had 11 teams interested after he worked out for scouts last fall, but that by the end it was only the Rockies who really wanted to give him a shot.

"Why not see where it takes me?" he said. "I'm going to enjoy the ride. This isn't a publicity stunt."

It didn't look like a publicity stunt Sunday. Moyer didn't look 49, until you saw him out of uniform and noticed the touch of gray in his hair and the lines in his face.

Maybe he looked like you do, or like you wished you did.

Maybe he made you feel just a little younger. And maybe he can do it this summer and beyond.
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