LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Whether or not 36-year-old Peter Moylan makes it all the way back from his second Tommy John surgery, the Aussie sidearmer is such a good bloke the Braves wanted him in their organization regardless.
Moylan wasn’t about to pass up the unusual offer they made: a two-year minor league contract that includes a spring training invitation in 2016, and a position as player/coach this season with rookie-league Danville when it starts its season in June.
Moylan and the Braves agreed to terms late last week and the deal was announced Wednesday, 10 days shy of the 12-month anniversary of his second TJ elbow surgery and fourth overall major surgery in five years, including back and shoulder procedures.
“The Braves have always been that ex-girlfriend that you always think about,” Moylan joked. “I’d always check the Braves results and numbers and see how they were doing, hoping they were doing well. Now I can do it for real, I don’t have to hide it.”
The reliever is back with the organization that signed him in 2006 after he pitched for Australia in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, when he’d been out of American baseball for nine years.
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“We thought it would be a situation where he could work with our young arms, but at the same time he could get healthy and find his way into games, if and when is the right time for him,” Braves assistant general manager John Coppolella said. “We thought he’d be a perfect fit for us. He’s such a great guy, and he’s (experienced) a lot of stuff.
“He was a great Braves arm, helped us out, was highly thought of here, and it just seemed like a good fit.
Moylan, who gained 10 mph on his fastball by dropping his arm angle to the side 10 years ago, became one of the best and most-used relievers in the majors from 2007-2010. He had a 1.80 ERA in 80 appearances (90 innings) as a 28-year-old rookie in 2007, missed much of the ‘08 season recovering from his first Tommy John surgery, then came back to post a 2.90 ERA in 172 appearances in 2009-2010, including a franchise-record 87 appearances in ’09 coming off TJ surgery.
He’s been limited by injuries and surgeries to 35 appearances in the past four seasons and last pitched in the majors with the Dodgers in 2013. Moylan is a fit 215 pounds now, nearly 40 pounds lighter than when he reported to spring training with the Astros in 2014, and he’s been throwing hard for months.
“I’m already having way too much fun,” said the heavily tattooed Aussie, sweating after a workout in Braves minor league camp Wednesday. “I couldn’t have written up a better chance for me. You look at it one way — if I sign with a team (now) I’m obviously going to try to prove myself immediately. I risk hurting again, I risk having horrible numbers, and then all of a sudden it gets to July and they’re like, ‘well, he’s not doing anything, let’s get rid of him,’ and my career might be over.
“This way I can take my time. The Braves can be patient, I’m going to be patient – which is not my strong point – and then when it’s right, it’ll be right.”
His agent was about to start calling around to set up tryouts with other teams or checking into options in Japan or elsewhere before Jonathan Schuerholz, Braves assistant director of player development, called him last week.
“Jonathan called me, and his exact words were, ‘I want to run something by you,’” Moylan said, rolling his eyes. “And I’m like, here we go. What do you want me to be on the grounds crew or something?” He laughed.
“The deal Schuerholz described) was perfect,” Moylan said. “I sat down with my wife and said, ‘Babe, let me run this by you and see if it sounds as good when it comes out of my mouth as it did when it came out of his. She listened and she’s like (incredulous tone), ‘Really?’ I said, yeah. Then I spoke to my agent and he said, ‘Really?’ I said, yeah.
“So, everyone I spoke to said, you’re mad (crazy) if you don’t take that.”
Moylan served as pitching coach last year for the Australian junior national team at the World Cup.
“I enjoyed that,” he said. “Working with young minds that haven’t been corrupted yet. And then when my career’s eventually over – let’s be honest, I’m not at my peak – then it’s something that I would definitely look to get into. It’s a perfect marriage between getting a chance to keep getting my work in. If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing I’d be sitting at home doing nothing. So it keeps me occupied, keeps me out of trouble, and I get to impart some wisdom on the young folk.”