Examining Mark Mulder’s Comeback Attempt – Where Could He End Up?
Mark Mulder is on the comeback trail. The 36-year old left-hander, who retired after the 2009 season due to multiple surgeries on his pitching elbow, announced earlier this week that he is planning to restart his career. Mulder shot to notoriety in the early 2000s with the Oakland A’s, finishing second in the A.L. Cy Young race to Roger Clemens in 2001 with a 21-8 record and a 3.45 ERA.
Since 2011, Mulder has served as an MLB commentator for ESPN and he has surprised many around the league by dropping this news. His premature retirement was a disappointment considering the promise he showed as a member of Oakland’s ‘Big Three’ in the early 2000s alongside Barry Zito and Tim Hudson. After being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals before the 2005 season, however, Mulder just couldn’t stay consistent. He battled a myriad of arm issues that ultimately led to two surgeries and the end of his career.
Interestingly, Mulder says he was inspired to give it another try after watching Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Paco Rodriguez during the playoffs in late October. Mulder saw something in Rodriguez’s delivery that made his dream seem more realistic.
As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick explains in a lengthy piece documenting Mulder’s journey, he and pitcher Kyle Lohse then started playing catch from 150-200 feet and were excited with what they saw. Said Mulder:
“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,” Mulder said. “I wouldn’t be trying this is if I didn’t think the stuff I was throwing was good enough [to pitch in the big leagues].”
This led to Mulder working out for three teams in Phoenix during November and cementing his wishes to officially make a comeback.
Most would probably assume that Mulder would be seeking a minor-league deal or an invitation to spring training, but there was an interesting development on that front on Tuesday. A report from Comcast Sports Net Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly noted that while the San Francisco Giants ‘reached out’ to Mulder, their thoughts of signing him fell by the wayside:
— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) December 17, 2013
However, when Giants writer John Shea relayed the thought that Mulder is seeking a major-league deal, Mulder replied back with confusion:
— Mark Mulder (@markmulder20) December 18, 2013
It would seem a bit odd for a pitcher in Mulder’s situation to seek a guaranteed Major League contract rather than an incentive-laden, financially modest minor-league deal, but in today’s digital age it’s hard to get a clear grasp on what’s ‘news’ and what is speculation.
At any rate, should Mulder really possess enough ‘stuff’ to earn a spot on a big-league roster, where could he end up? The Giants, of course, already had Zito for seven years before replacing him with Hudson this offseason. Could they really draw the ire of A’s fans and sign all three of the Big Three? Who knows.
Crasnick’s ESPN piece said that Mulder was throwing 89-90 MPH for teams in his November workout, and if that’s accurate it would be feasible to imagine some team taking a flier on the lefty’s services; whether he wants a Major League or minor-league deal. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, for sure.
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