Entering his 24th major league season healthy, Moyer looks to help the surging Philadelphia Phillies get off to their best start in 17 years Saturday night when they face a Houston Astros team trying to avoid its worst start in 27 seasons.
Moyer’s future in the majors looked uncertain after the veteran was hospitalized in September due to recurring symptoms from groin surgery. The soft-tossing left-hander, who had only made two trips to the disabled list in a career that started in 1986, then underwent right knee and abdominal operations.
Most wondered if Moyer could still pitch following this turbulent offseason, but the 258-game winner squashed any doubt in spring training. He went 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in three Grapefruit League starts, striking out 15 and walking none in 17 2-3 innings to earn the fifth spot in Philadelphia’s rotation.
“I think the most important thing for me was to go out and pitch and then let everything else fall into place,” said Moyer, who went 12-10 with a 4.94 ERA in 30 games - 25 starts - in 2009. “If I can pitch, then I’m healthy. So why worry about the health - that was something I had to worry about all winter long. I felt coming into the door like I could do what they asked me to do.”
Moyer appeared in three games against Houston last season - starting once - allowing three runs and four hits with seven strikeouts over 10 1-3 innings without recording a decision.
Like a year ago, Moyer has the luxury of pitching for one of baseball’s most potent offenses.
The Phillies (3-1) are coming off Friday’s series-opening 8-0 win, and have already amassed 32 runs and 52 hits through four games.
Leadoff batter Jimmy Rollins(notes) had two hits and scored twice Friday, while No. 2 hitter Placido Polanco(notes) had four hits and drove in two runs for Philadelphia, which hasn’t won four of its first five games since starting 8-1 in 1993. So far this season, Rollins is batting .467 with a .591 on-base percentage and Polanco is hitting .579 with four multihit games.
“When the top of the lineup is doing what they are doing, that is when good things happen,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We are going to knock in a bunch of runs.”
While the Phillies are having no trouble producing runs, the same cannot be said about the Astros, who are on the verge of opening with five consecutive losses for the first time since starting 0-9 in 1983.
“You never envision this, but at the same time, teams are going to go through things like this, so you try to dig out the positive things that happened, and we’re able to do that,” first-year Astros manager Brad Mills(notes) said.
At one point last season Paulino posted a 7.86 ERA in losing seven straight starts, a slide that ended with a 5-3 win at Philadelphia on Oct. 1. The right-hander allowed one run and six hits with five strikeouts in five innings in that game, his only career start against the Phillies.