Thom Loverro: Moyer’s final chance to shed journeyman label

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You pitch 22 years, win 246 games - more than some Hall of Fame pitchers - and, at the age of 45, you win 16 games and help your team reach the World Series.

But if Jamie Moyer can’t find a way to beat Matt Garza on Saturday in Game 3 of the World Series in Philadelphia and put his Phillies up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, all of his accomplishments may simply translate in the minds of baseball fans to this: Jamie Moyer, journeyman.

Mind you, it is an undeserved identity. Moyer’s road to this point represents one of the more remarkable pitching careers in recent years. He is a two-time 20-game winner and has earned his place among the elite pitchers of his time.

But Moyer, the second-oldest starting pitcher in World Series history, sneaked up on everyone to get to this point. Heck, he was nearly out of baseball 16 years ago until he found a second life with the Baltimore Orioles.

The left-hander started his career with the Chicago Cubs in 1986 and showed some promise, going 7-4 in 16 starts as a rookie. But after three seasons and a 28-34 record, Moyer was traded to the Texas Rangers (in the deal that sent Rafael Palmeiro to Texas).

Moyer continued to put up losing numbers in two seasons with Texas. He was released in 1990, signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1991 as a free agent, eventually sent down to Class AAA Louisville and released again.

He pitched for the Toledo Mud Hens for a season, signed a free-agent deal with the Orioles in 1993, pitched for their minor-league team in Rochester, then went 12-9 with a 3.43 ERA with the big-league club and was back in the majors to stay.

Even then, though, Moyer wasn’t the pitcher he would become. He struggled in 1994 and 1995 and was not re-signed by new general manager Pat Gillick, who later would have Moyer on his staff in Seattle and bring him to Philadelphia in a trade two years ago.

It was with the Mariners that Moyer emerged as a front line starter, posting a 145-87 record over 11 seasons. Do you know who the winningest pitcher in Mariners history is? Not Randy Johnson. It’s Jamie Moyer.

Yet, over these 22 years, Moyer has made an All-Star roster just once - in 2003, when he had his best season (21-7).

But now, a month away from turning 46, Moyer has a chance to validate his entire career with one pitching performance in his first World Series start.

He will have to do so against Garza, a 24-year-old stud with a power fastball who was named the American League Championship Series MVP after posting a 1.38 ERA in two starts and a Game 7 victory over the Red Sox - the biggest win in Rays history.

Here is Jamie Moyer, a winner of 246 games in his career, a man who won five more games this season than Garza. Yet, this appears to be a pitching mismatch that favors the Rays.

“He was probably our most consistent pitcher at one time this year,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He won 16 ballgames for us. He made all of his appearances in rotation. He even pitched on short rest at times. And, look, he’s had some big games. He’s pitched two games in the playoffs, and they hadn’t been very good for him. But at the same time, I’ve still got confidence in him getting guys out. He showed he can get them out.”

Moyer is one of the game’s good guys. He has won every good-guy award in baseball - the Hutch Award, the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, the Roberto Clemente Award and the Branch Rickey Award - all honors for perseverance, dedication and community service.

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