Jamie Moyer made baseball history, pitching his way into the Colorado Rockies rotation and becoming the oldest starting pitcher to make an Opening Day roster.
The 49-year-old left-hander is not impressed.
He did not spend the past 22 months rehabbing from Tommy John surgery to become a trivia answer. His intent is to be a contributing member of a big-league rotation and help the Rockies in the NL West race. Better luck next time.
Moyer made his Rockies debut with a decent but deficient effort in Colorado’s 7-3 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night.
Physically, he felt fine, the legs holding up without the slightest gimp, and mentally he was recharged, back on a big-league field again.
“It is,” he said, “a place I love being.”
He will be there again Thursday afternoon, facing the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field, looking to make amends for the game against the Astros.
“As a pitcher, you’ve got to pitch,’’ Moyer said. "You’ve got to go out and do your job. I put us behind the 8-ball the first hitter of the game. …. It’s about our team. It’s about us winning.’’
And that, the Rockies first loss of the season, is what ate at Moyer, who at 49 years, 141 days old, became the second oldest pitcher in major league history to start a game, behind only Satchel Paige. Paige was 59 years, 80 days old when he was given a three-inning cameo by the Kansas City A’s back on Sept. 25, 1965.
Paige got that start as part of a September signing that allowed Paige to vest in the baseball pension plan.
Moyer got his start with the Rockies because he earned a spot in the rotation with his efforts in the spring.
In his regular-season Rockies debut Moyer was decent, but Houston right-hander Lucas Harrell was better. Yeah, that Lucas Harrell, who was one year and 13 days old when Moyer made his big-league debut on June 16, 1986, for the Chicago Cubs by beating Hall of Famer Steve Carlton and the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-5, at Wrigley Field.
While Harrell was shutting out the Rockies for seven innings, chalking up 14 of 21 outs on ground balls and four others with strikeouts, Moyer was battling not only Astros batters, but also his own defense, departing after five innings charged with four runs, one of which was unearned.
There was that home run to open the bottom of the first by Jordan Schafer, who was born 80 days after Moyer’s big-league debut, and then a two-run shot in the fourth by J.D. Martinez, born one year, 66 days after Moyer’s debut. Schafer put down a squeeze to score Marwin Gonzalez, who led off the fifth with a double off Moyer, whose debut came three years, 271 days before Gonzalez’s birth.
"Physically, I feel outstanding,’’ he said. "That’s a good sign for me. I think my last outing in spring training I threw just over 100 pitches, so I felt very strong. I’m pleased with that side of it.’’
That, however, doesn’t overshadow the loss, the 205th of his career.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy took it in stride.
"I don’t think he pitched badly at all,’’ Tracy said. "Jamie gave us a competitive effort.’’
That’s not what Moyer was looking for though. With his first win this season he will become the oldest pitcher to win a big-league game, but as he quickly explained during the spring, “I’m not out here to win one game. I’m out here to help my team win games.”
And the Rockies are convinced he can do that with an assortment of pitches that can best be described as slow and slower. He hit 80 mph with only one of the 69 pitches he threw against the Astros, bottoming out at 67 mph. He was consistently in the upper 70s, hitting 78 or 79 mph with 34 pitches.
It, however, is not about velocity for Moyer. It never has been.
“No use worrying about radar guns when he’s pitching,” said Detroit scout Dick Egan, a member of the Texas Rangers coaching staff in 1988, when the Rangers acquired Moyer from the Cubs. “What he does is he pitches. It’s a craft with him. You don’t come ahead over-awed by what you see. You come away impressed by the job he does.”
On this night, though, Moyer wasn’t impressed.
And he wasn’t using the Minute Maid Park as an alibi.
“I don’t play the ballpark game,’’ he said. “A home run is a home run. It really doesn’t matter to me. I’ve just got to make better pitches in key situations.”
Moyer has, after all, given up a major league record 513 home runs. It was the 135th time in his career that he’s given up multiple home runs in a game. Schafer and Martinez became the 325th and 326th different players to hit home runs off him.
As far as Tracy is concerned, others will get a chance to add their name to that list, too.