Mark Mulder, now 36, has not pitched in Major League Baseball since 2008. Yet now six years later he is getting his chance at making a comeback with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Mulder and the Angels came to an agreement on a minor league deal Wednesday. The deal includes an invitation to Spring Training which means he may have a shot at making the team’s starting rotation.
The Angels already have quite a few starting pitchers on their staff. Led by CJ Wilson, Jared Weaver and Garrett Richards, they have also picked up Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. At first glance it seems like this team would be a tough one for Mulder to try to make his comeback. Santiago, however, is able to pitch out of bullpen and with Skaggs being only 22 he will really have to prove himself in March to avoid starting the season in Triple-A. The Angels also still have Joe Blanton. Although technically still on the roster, it appears unlikely he will open the season with the team. Blanton is coming off an abysmal year in which he accumulated 13 losses by mid July. He was then bumped from the rotation and replaced by Garrett. So there may be a place in the Angels’ 2014 starting rotation for Mulder after all.
Still, the Angels have been said to be interested in signing Japanese phenom, Masahiro Tanaka. The bidding war for Tanaka is already becoming a big one with the Yankees and Cubs also showing interest in him. There is also the question of free-agent Matt Garza. He has been of interest to the team as well. If they sign one of the two would Mulder ever consider starting in the minors? His agent his agent, Brian Charles of Big League Management Company, said:
“When the time comes, we’ll evaluate the situation. Right now, though, he’s looking forward to the opportunity to start in the Angels’ starting rotation.”
So it appears that Mulder is confident of his new pitching ability. Not having ever considered making a comeback until October of 2013, Mulder found that he could emulate the wind up of Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Paco Rodriguez without pain in his left shoulder. Agent Brian Charles commented,
“He’s giving this 100 percent and the way he’s throwing, he feels that he can be a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues.”
The two time All-Star’s fastball velocity has been clocked at 88-90 mph. He spent the entire month of November working to get into MLB shape and threw off the mound for the first time just before the Winter Meetings. He auditioned for the Angels as well as the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and a few other clubs before deciding to work with Anaheim. Said Charles,
“I think that it was a combination of both the opportunity to be in the starting rotation combined with the Angels being a championship-caliber team, being a winning organization. Those elements combined to make it a really good fit.”
At 36, Mulder’s comeback attempt is certainly an interesting one but he was once one of the elite pitchers in the game. He was part of the Oakland Athletics’ “Big Three” along side Barry Zito and Tim Hudson in the early 2000s. In 2001 he won 21 games and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting. Over his nine big league seasons with the A’s and the St. Louis Cardinals he went 103-60 with a 4.18 ERA . Shoulder problems sidelined him in 2008. He officially retired from baseball in 2010 and has been working as an analyst for ESPN since 2011. It’s been six years since Mulder pitched in the big leagues but he feels that his new approach has him ready to get back to get back in the game.
“The best way to describe it is, the ball is coming out of my hand better now than at any point when I was in St. Louis, I wouldn’t be trying this if I didn’t think the stuff I was throwing was good enough [to pitch in the big leagues].”