PHOENIX – Instead of serving as a player/coach with the Braves’ rookie league Danville team this summer, veteran reliever Peter Moylan could be pitching for the Braves at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Moylan, who is more than 14 months into his recovery from a second Tommy John elbow surgery, was promoted Tuesday from the disabled list at Single-A Rome to the active roster at Triple-A Gwinnett.
“Let’s give him a little time to see if he can go back-to-back days, two innings, and how does the stuff translate?” said John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations, who was impressed when he saw Moylan recently in an extended spring training game. “We don’t exactly have a deep pen, and I have always loved this guy. He will show us where he is at.”
Moylan said, “All the work is paying off. I’m still not to my goal yet, but excited and extremely grateful for the chance to prove I can still do it.”
The Braves signed Moylan, 36, to an unusual two-year minor league contract in March, one that included an invitation to major league spring training in 2016, and a position as player-coach this season with the rookie-league Danville team, which starts its season June 23.
That was the plan, so Moylan could continue working out and pitching for Danville, progressing in his recovery from elbow surgery without overdoing it trying to get back too soon. But plans were revised after the Aussie sidearmer threw better than expected in recent weeks during extended spring training, while the Braves bullpen had lapses.
“Danville is out — Peter is now a player,” Hart said.
The Braves could certainly use another experienced, effective reliever, if and when he’s ready. Braves starters have whittled their ERA to 3.77, sixth in the NL, but their relievers had a league-worst 4.64 ERA before Tuesday.
Moylan is trying to make a seemingly improbable comeback – he had four major surgeries in a five-year span, including back and shoulder procedures – and is attempting to do it with the organization that provided the platform for his initial improbable comeback nearly a decade ago.
Moylan became one of the most popular Braves among fans and teammates alike while spending the first seven seasons of his major league career with the team, which signed the then-bespectacled pharmaceutical salesman after his impressive showing in the 2006 World Baseball Classic – after he’d been out of American professional baseball for nine years following a brief minor league career with the Twins.
After dropping his arm angle to become a sidearmer while pitching in an Australian semi-pro league, Moylan had gained 10 mph on his fastball.
His outgoing personality and dry humor made him popular with teammates and fans alike, but it was performance that made Moylan a big contributor to the franchise for three seasons. He had a 1.80 ERA in 80 appearances (90 innings) as a 28-year-old rookie in 2007, missed much of the 2008 season recovering from his first Tommy John surgery, then posted a 2.90 ERA in 172 appearances during the 2009-2010 seasons.
That included a franchise-record 87 appearances in ’09 in his first season after TJ surgery.
He’s been limited 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, 40 pounds lighter than when he reported to spring training with the Astros in 2014.
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