Peter Moylan is a 38-year-old reliever who forged a baseball career after working manual labor and sales jobs in his native Australia. He is a pitcher who has endured two Tommy John surgeries on his right elbow, a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his shoulder and a procedure for a bulging disc in his back. The way he sees it, he is already playing with house money.
His body has been stressed to the limits. His mind has been steeled by years of setbacks. And as he reached for a bag of potato chips inside his locker at Rogers Centre on Wednesday afternoon, pondering the latest chapter, he sat 12 days from concluding his best regular season in at least seven years.
“All the (stuff) that I’ve been through up until last year,” Moylan said, munching a chip. “Every outing that I have is like: It’s hard not to enjoy it. I feel really good. And I feel like I could pitch for another couple of years.”
Ah yes, the future. This part remains unclear. Signed to a one-year deal at the onset of spring training, Moylan will be a free agent after the season. For now, he seeks to make one thing clear: He desires a return to Kansas City in 2018.
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“I love it here,” he said. “Everything. The fans. The city. The people. People that don’t even know that I play baseball are amazing. I love the feel of Kansas City.”
The relationship has been beneficial for both sides. In 2017, Moylan has posted a 3.70 ERA across 56 innings in a team-high 73 appearances. The numbers don’t quite illustrate how effective the side-arming right-hander has been in his role. Of the 23 earned runs he’s allowed, 14 have come in three appearances. In his other 70 outings, most as a right-handed specialist, he has logged a 1.51 ERA in in 53 2/3 innings.
Judging relievers by ERA can be a misleading exercise, of course. Yet Moylan rates well in other ways, too. He’s limited right-handed batters to a .165 batting average and a .465 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage). He entered Wednesday ranked 11th among major-league relievers in ground-ball percentage.
“It’s a different look,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Not many guys out there like it.”
The Royals will have a full plate this offseason as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain reach free agency for the first time. Yet other, less notable pending free agents — such as Moylan and left-handed reliever Mike Minor — could command varying levels of interest. For now, Moylan said he’s ready for anything.
A year ago, he won a job in the Royals’ bullpen in May and turned in a respectable 3.43 ERA in 50 appearances. He entered the offseason expecting to choose from two or three major-league offers, he said. But the options never came. He settled for a non-guaranteed minor-league deal with the Royals as camp began. He would prefer to avoid that fate again.
“Who knows what’s going to happen in the offseason?” Moylan said. “I went into last offseason thinking that: It’s going to be a nice offseason. They’ll be a few offers; I’ll be able to choose. And all of a sudden, it was nothing but minor-league deals again.”
Moylan will turn 39 in December, a fact that could limit the market for his services. His injury history is known and documented. And yet, Moylan says he feels healthier than he has in years. He all but cut out alcohol from his diet after finishing his second Tommy John rehab in 2015, he said. He shed close to 40 pounds from his 6-foot-2 frame and found a formula for staying fresh.
“It’s helped me keep the weight off,” he said. “It’s helped take the stress off parts of my body that would normally be hurting.”
In 2017, the proof has come on the field. On Wednesday, his 73 appearances ranked second in the major leagues. Inside the clubhouse, he remains a source of levity and comic relief, the kind of veteran who will buy a espresso machine for the clubhouse. Yet most of all, Moylan believes he can still be an important piece in a major-league bullpen.
“I don’t feel like I’m that old charity case,” he said. “I feel like I can contribute. And I still feel like I could compete for a couple more years yet.”