TEMPE, Ariz. — Mark Mulder’s comeback attempt with the Angels ended before it really began. The veteran left-hander suffered a rupture of his left Achilles’ tendon during an agility drill Saturday morning and will be out for the season, general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed.
Mulder, 36, hasn’t pitched since July 2008 and last won a game on June 15, 2006. The nine-year veteran was perfectly content in retirement, playing golf, working as an ESPN analyst and being a father to three kids, ages 6, 4 and 2.
Then last October, as he watched the playoffs, Mulder was intrigued by the way Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez separated his hands near the top of his delivery. Mulder mimicked the motion in the living room of his Phoenix home and was surprised by how natural it felt.
Mulder began playing catch and threw for scouts in November and December. He signed a minor-league deal with the Angels on Jan. 1, and the team was confident he would have an excellent chance of winning a rotation spot.
"I feel like a little kid with a new toy," Mulder said in a recent interview. "It’s getting better each time I throw."
I can handle this. But seeing my son in tears when he saw me in a boot and crutches and I told him I wasn't going to pitch. That was tough.
But Mulder’s comeback hopes were dashed Saturday when he suffered his injury just before he was scheduled to throw his first bullpen workout on the second day of spring training camp. An MRI test confirmed the severity of the injury.
Almost ironically, Mulder said his biggest concern entering camp wasn’t the left shoulder he had surgery on in 2006 and 2007. It was his legs and lower back, which are more susceptible to injury after hours of drills and shagging fly balls on Arizona’s sun-baked fields.
Mulder, from South Holland, Ill., was the second overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Oakland A’s. The Michigan State product debuted in the majors two years later at the age of 22.
After a rookie campaign of 9-10 with a 5.44 ERA, Mulder went 21-8 with a 3.45 ERA and finished second to New York Yankees ace Roger Clemens in voting for the 2001 AL Cy Young Award.
Mulder compiled an 81-42 record with a 3.92 ERA in 150 starts for the A’s from 2000 to 2004. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and went 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 2005.
Injuries affected the following season when he only started 17 games and he pitched in just six games in 2007 and ’08 before retiring.
For his career, Mulder is 103-60 with a 4.18 ERA and 834 strikeouts in 1,314 innings.