June 28, 2012
Jamie Moyer, who pitched for the Colorado Rockies earlier this season before being released and who also had a brief stint in the minors for the Baltimore Orioles this month, has found a new landing place. The Toronto Blue Jays, desperate for pitching after a recent rash of injuries decimated their rotation, inked Moyer to a minor league deal Tuesday, though there are many that feel it is merely a matter of time before Moyer takes a turn or two in Toronto’s rotation.
It’s been a whirlwind 2012 for Moyer, who missed the second half of the 2010 season due to an elbow injury. Moyer pitched in the Dominican Winter League, where he sustained another elbow injury that eventually led to Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. The surgery and subsequent rehabilitation kept him out of baseball during the 2011 season. He signed a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training with the Rockies on January 18, 2012.
Moyer made the team out of spring training and was slotted as the team’s number two starter. On April 17, he became the oldest player in major league history to record a victory, besting Jack Quinn, who was two months beyond his 49th birthday in 1932. A month later, on May 16, Moyer became the oldest player to drive in a run with a two run single against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unfortunately for Moyer, the bad outweighed the good pitching at Coors Field as he allowed at least four runs in seven of ten starts. After going 2-5 with a 5.70 earned run average, the Rockies released Moyer on June 1.
Moyer wasn’t out of work long, signing a minor league deal with the Orioles on June 6. It marked Moyer’s second tour of duty in Baltimore; he was 25-22 with a 4.41 earned run average in 75 games, 66 starts over a three year period from 1993 through 1995. Moyer had a clause in the deal with Baltimore that the team had to promote him after three minor league starts or grant him his release. He went 1-1 with a 1.69 earned run average in those outings, covering 16 innings. Moyer fanned 16 hitters and did not walk one during his tenure with the Tides.
After Moyer’s third minor league start with the Tides, he requested to be called up as per the agreement. The Orioles offered him another minor league start with the Tides instead, lacking the spot that would be needed for Moyer to be part of the big league roster. Moyer declined and became a free agent on June 23. Orioles manager Buck Showalter praised Moyer for his short stint with the team, saying “We’re very appreciative of him giving us that opportunity to look. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitch for somebody shortly. Personally, just out of respect for his career what he’s done, I hope it happens.”
Three days later, that became a reality when the Blue Jays came calling. Toronto is desperate for pitching at the moment, with several starters out at least temporarily. The Blue Jays woes with their pitching staff began with Brandon Morrow suffering a strained oblique during his start on June 11. Morrow faced just one hitter in that start, throwing nine pitches before leaving. Manager John Farrell said recently that Morrow is improving and played catch recently. Farrell did say that the process for Morrow to build up his intensity would be a slow process. Morrow is 7-4 with a 3.01 earned run average with three complete games and three shutouts for the Blue Jays this season.
Two days after the Morrow injury, Kyle Drabek had to leave his start against the Nationals in the fifth inning with an elbow injury. After a further exam, it was determined that Drabek had torn a ligament in his elbow and would be placed on the disabled list. He underwent Tommy John surgery on June 19 and is lost for the season and more than likely a chunk of the 2013 campaign as well. Drabek finished his season with a 4-7 mark and a 4.67 earned run average. He took the loss in three of his final four starts, during which time his earned run average climbed from nearly a run and a half from the 3.27 mark he had following his start against the Rays on May 21.
Not to be left out, Drew Hutchison was injured on June 15, lasting just two thirds of an inning in his start against Washington before leaving with an elbow injury. While his injury is not as severe as the one that plagued Drabek, he did sustain a sprained elbow and was placed on the disabled list. Toronto transferred him from the 15 day to the 60 day disabled list in order to make room for Scott Richmond, who was brought up from Triple-A Las Vegas. Richmond had been in the starting rotation for the Blue Jays in 2008 and 2009.
Henderson Alvarez was the latest Blue Jays hurler to leave a game early when he departed with a sore elbow during Monday’s start against the Boston Red Sox. However, Alvarez’s injury does not appear to be serious and he is on track to make his next start on Saturday according to the team. With three starters on the shelf and a fourth one banged up, what kind of depth does Toronto have to throw out there on the mound as they attempt to stay above .500 and in contention for a postseason berth?
The answer, unfortunately for Blue Jays fans, is not much. Ricky Romero is still pitching but he’s been less than stellar so far this year. He boasts an 8-2 record but it comes with a 4.94 earned run average. If it wasn’t for the impressive run support Romero has been receiving, Romero wouldn’t be sporting a gaudy record. He has walked the second most hitters in the American League so far this season with 52 free passes handed out. The cupboard is rather barren after Romero.
The Blue Jays have Brett Cecil, who had made 67 big league starts, two so far this season. He’s 1-0 with a 2.45 earned run average but hasn’t gone deep in either outing, pitching five innings in his first outing and six in the second. Jesse Chavez was pummeled in a pair of starts for Toronto, giving up 10 earned runs in 8.2 innings before getting moved back to the bullpen. He pitched three innings of relief Wednesday against Boston in a game that Romero was tagged in. Aaron Laffey threw six scoreless innings of three hit ball in his one start but he’s pitched just 15.1 innings at the major league level this season after getting hammered all over the Pacific Coast League.
Joel Carreno came up a loser in both his starts this season, including a three inning stint against Milwaukee last week when he gave up five runs. Richmond has pitched all of 1.1 innings in two outings in the majors since 2009; he was 9-14 in 32 games, 29 starts for Toronto previously. Injuries and inconsistency have derailed his return to the majors. Given the lack of options, could the Blue Jays really afford to pass on giving Moyer a minor league deal right now?
After all, Moyer has won 269 games in the big leagues, all without a blazing fastball that he could rely on to get out of tough situations. Moyer has always been a pitch to contact type of pitcher, one who relied on his fielders to make plays on balls put in play. Clearly he wasn’t a fit in Colorado, where balls that are poorly struck manage to find their way over the fence more often than not. He may not have been a fit in Baltimore, though that was more due to the Orioles cultivating talent from within their organization at the moment instead of taking on veterans. Toronto is in desperation mode; they need pitchers and they need them to eat innings.
Could they do better than Moyer? It’s a possibility, if they wanted to make a deal and potentially move players that they may not be inclined to trade at the moment. They could easily do worse than Moyer; a look at the names and statistics of some of the pitchers that have taken a turn in the rotation bear that out clearly. Perhaps this is the right place at the right time for Moyer.
As they say, the third time’s the charm.