PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Jeff Suppan unofficially began his 20th professional baseball season after he threw his first bullpen session on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Suppan, a second-round pick in the 1993 draft by the Boston Red Sox, accepted an invitation to big league camp with the San Diego Padres when they signed him to a minor-league contract. He will compete with Dustin Moseley, Micah Owings and Anthony Bass for the fifth spot in the Padres’ starting rotation.
Suppan, 37, was 11-8 with a 4.78 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) for the Kansas City Royals’ Triple-A Omaha affiliate last season. But 2011 also marked the first season he hadn’t appeared on a major league roster since 1994. Even though he has a World Series ring and a post-baseball career as a restaurateur planned, Suppan said he’s having too much fun to retire.
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Suppan is 138-143 in his career with a 4.69 ERA. He has pitched for six teams and won a World Series title with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006.
“I’m not going to overanalyze it, I’m a baseball player and I like to play,” Suppan said. “That’s why I’m here. All these things, retirement, continuing to play, they’re all a reality. It could go either way. There’s an opportunity here. I’m here and we’ll see what happens.”
Pitching coach Darren Balsley said Suppan isn’t just in camp to give the Padres depth. Nor is he with the team to mentor a talented crop of minor-league pitchers.
“He’s a great veteran presence, and by the way he can still pitch,” Balsley said.
Suppan can opt out of the contract on June 15 if he isn’t in the majors. But for now, Suppan said he’s enjoying bullpen sessions and being around his teammates.
“They said there was an opportunity,” Suppan said. “How great, they really couldn’t say. But they did say there was an opportunity to come to camp and show what I can do. We’ll see what happens and I’m OK with that.”