Earlier this month, Jamie Moyer told me he was going to pitch again even if – worst case scenario – he needed reconstructive surgery on his now 48-year-old left elbow.
When the quotes were picked up around baseball, there was a lot of head-shaking. Tomorrow, Moyer will undergo ‘Tommy John’ surgery, have the elbow rebuilt and then begin the tenuous process of trying to do what no one has done before – come back at age 50.
The normal rehab for this surgery is 12-18 months, and only one man over 40 has ever returned to the big leagues after having had it: reliever John Franco, who made a comeback at age 42.
Moyer went 9-9 with Philadelphia last season before an elbow injury sidelined him. Determined to show he could still pitch, Moyer went to winter ball in the Dominican Republic, made one start and came out when his elbow pain returned. An MRI showed the damage was major.
He has no plans to retire. In fact, Moyer insists he’ll be back, and since most of his career has been built on his one great natural ability – sheer determination – it would be foolish to rule it out.
If Moyer loses a little velocity, it might not hurt him as much as a power pitcher. He never threw harder than 87 mph, anyway, and not only survived with his changeup but flourished – winning 20 or more games twice in his Seattle Mariners career. And he won 16 more in 2008 with the Phillies.
‘Amazing’ never quite covered Moyer or his career. He won 267 big-league games, established a charity – ‘The Moyer Foundation’ – with wife Karen and worked hard to help children around the country. On and off the field, he has been a role model, the baseball player as the ideal citizen.
If that rebuilt left elbow forces him away from the game, Moyer will move on to whatever the next endeavor requires.
No one, however, should be surprised if Jamie Moyer stands on a big-league mound again at 50 – and gets a hitter out. And, who knows, since he still lives in Seattle, he might do it with the Mariners.