Time stood still for Peter Moylan on Monday as he made his way to the Royals’ spring-training facility for the first time this season.
Moylan boarded a plane in his native Australia at 11 a.m. on Monday, and factoring the flight time and time zone change, he landed in Phoenix … around 11 a.m. on Monday.
Now it’s time to go forward for Moylan, who signed a minor-league contract last week and seeks to regain a roster spot.
“If I come here without any hope of trying to make the big-league team, I’d be doing myself an injustice,” Moylan said. “There’s a lot of guys here I’ll be fighting for a spot with, hopefully do what I did last year and improve this spring and made the decision easy for them.”
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Moylan, 38, is a down under, or submarine-style pitcher in the mix for one of the final couple of bullpen spots. Three slots figure to be filled by Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm with two others coming from a group of three: Nathan Karns, Chris Young and Travis Wood. One looks to the fifth starter.
Mike Minor could have the inside track at another spot. That leaves one bullpen spot if the Royals start the season with seven relievers.
Age may not favor Moylan — “At my age you just hope to have a job” — but recent experience does.
After spending eight of his first nine seasons with the Braves, Moylan signed a minor-league deal with the Royals before last season and spent the first month in Class AAA Omaha. He pitched well enough there to earn a promotion in May and turned in a solid season with a 3.43 ERA in 44 2/3 innings.
Moylan was a big part of the bullpen’s best stretch last season, a scoreless inning streak that reached 41 1/3 innings from Aug. 10-26.
He brought to the Royals, “a lot of durability,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s a strike thrower, he’s a veteran and he’s a great competitor.”
Moylan returned to his homeland after last season, served as the pitching coach for the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League, then pitched for the team. He tossed nine innings in relief, struck out eight, collected two saves and didn’t allow a run.
During that time, Moylan was on the market, looking for a major-league contract. He understands why that didn’t happen.
“Early in the offseason there was a little bit of action,” Moylan said. “Then it sort of died off a little bit. Once we got to mid-January, it fired up a little more.”
But he landed with his preferred team.
“Part of the reason why I came back is I had such a great time here,” Moylan said. “Everyone from the front-office staff, to the training staff, clubhouse staff … the experience I had here last year was a good as I had in the big leagues.”
Next month, Moylan’s spring training will be interrupted by the World Baseball Classic. Australia is part of the pool with China, Cuba and Japan and its first game is against Japan in Tokyo on March 8.
The event holds special meaning to Moylan. It was in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 that he was identified as a major-league prospect by the Atlanta Braves.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the World Baseball Classic,” Moylan said.
Australia was swept in pool play that year, and Moylan pitched only once, a statistically unforgettable performance where he walked five, surrendered one hit and one run in two innings.
By then, Moylan had developed his submarine style, a necessity after battling back problems for years. Moylan, who had spent two years in the Twins’ organization in the 1990s, was rediscovered by the Braves after his international appearance and invited to a tryout.
Before the year was over, Moylan had started his major-league career. Next month will mark his first appearance for his country since then.
“Due to injuries and too much pitching during the season, I haven’t have a chance to pitch for Australia in 10, 11 years,” Moylan said. “This is going to be fun.”