Moyer one for the ages

Making Rockies rotation at 49 marks unbelievable comeback

Credit the Cubs for keeping Jamie Moyer in uniform.

He tried the game once as a spectator, and he didn't like it.

"One time I went to Wrigley Field for a playoff game and sat in the seats with the fans,'' Moyer said. "It was strange. I thought I was going to have fun. It was a good night. I remember walking back to the hotel after the game. But I didn't like being in the stands. Too strange.''

Moyer wasn't immediately sure what year he and his wife, Karen, had joined his father-in-law, Digger Phelps, at the game. By process of elimination, he said it wasn't 2008, '07 or even '03. He was talking about Game 3 against the Braves, in '98 — Greg Maddux over rookie Kerry Wood.

At that time, Moyer was 35. He had just won 15 games for the Mariners. The end surely was near.

Or not.

Moyer, 49, completed a comeback for the ages when he nailed down a spot in the Rockies' rotation. He will have to get results at Coors Field to hold it, but you bet against him at your own peril.

No one is more impressed with how Moyer is changing speeds off his 80-mph fastball than his onetime peers, long since retired.

ESPN's John Kruk says succeeding with Moyer's finesse style "would be to me like watching a hitter go out there with a hand that's broken and not be able to take a full swing, but yet he hits .320 every year with 20 bombs.''

Doesn't compute.

"You're going to say, 'Wait a second, how are you doing that?' " Kruk said.

Moyer's scheduled start Saturday in Houston was to be his first since July 20, 2010. He spent the 2011 season recovering from Tommy John surgery but was pitching so well this winter that more than 10 teams expressed interest after his tryouts.

He says he's not pitching that differently than he did in 2001, when he won 20 games for the Mariners. He has lost a little off his fastball, but even back then it rarely got above 85.

"I could not be more impressed," ESPN's Curt Schilling said on a conference call. "Right now my life at 45, the challenge for me is getting out of bed in the morning, and the challenge for him is whether he can get into the seventh or eighth inning of a Major League Baseball game."

The Rockies would love for Moyer to make 30 starts. Every time he pitches is Turn Back the Clock Day.

Limits help: Ken Williams is understandably sensitive about baseball publications ranking farm systems, as the Sox have become a consensus No. 30 among the 30 franchises. Williams says he should do a better job touting the talents of his minor leaguers but says he doesn't want to weigh them down with expectations.

The problem, however, hasn't been Williams' salesmanship. It has been the organization's spending, which has been at the bottom in both the draft and the international markets. The Sox have spent more lately on international players — Williams says they have signed more good prospects in the sixth months they've had Marco Paddy in charge of their Latin American operations than in the previous 12 years — but the real cause for optimism in the organization is the new collective-bargaining agreement that sets spending limits that will affect teams like the Royals and Pirates, along with the Yankees and Red Sox.

"We benefit in the amateur draft,'' Williams said. "It will allow you to take the best player (rather than a signable player). We benefit (from limits) in Latin America too.''

While baseball tries to spread amateur talent more evenly, the revenue disparity between clubs is widening because of the impact of rights fees from regional sports networks, like the deals that allowed the Angels to sign Albert Pujols and the Rangers to invest in Yu Darvish.

CHICAGO

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