At 40, Moyer still has what it takes

Mariners pitcher just keeps plugging away Ñ and winning

SEATTLE Ð Upon retirement, which could be at 65 the way he has been pitching, Seattle's Jamie Moyer won't lay down his mitt and put away his baseballs.

Moyer fantasizes about the day when he and his kids and their buddies go down the street to the ball yard in the city's Magnolia neighborhood. They'll just play ball, all day, except maybe breaking for burgers.

Moyer will be the ideal parent, sitting in the stands and watching as sons Hutton and Dillon and another yet-to-be-born boy suit up and pick up where their old man left off in the grand old game.

'I could sit there all day and watch them,' he says.

Maybe Moyer will jump into coaching.

'My wife (Karen) has been joking since spring training: 'It's going to be funny when you're coaching a high school team and a Little League team at the same time,' ' he says.

Moyer isn't ready for the rocking chair yet, though. He has started to reach milestones, the most noteworthy being his 20th year in professional baseball. Within three years, the Mariners' ace could top 200 wins.

'It's only a number, but 200 wins proves some longevity and durability,' says Moyer, who had 166 career wins going into Thursday's scheduled start against Cleveland. 'The number 300 would be awesome, but I realize it's not fathomable.'

In brokering his own three-year contract with the Mariners in the offseason ÑÊa deal that could total more than $21 million, including incentives Ñ he compared his statistics with other pitchers and mentioned the 200-win idea in negotiations.

Moyer, who made $7 million last season, turned down another club's more lucrative offer to stay in Seattle, where his career has blossomed, where he likes the 'pace of life' and where his family has settled down.

Value for their dollar

Nineteen days after Moyer turned 40 last winter, the Mariners signed him, with General Manager Pat Gillick not batting an eye about forking over three years' guaranteed pay for somebody on the north side of his prime. Gillick says that Moyer at 40 is better than others at 25 and that his soft-throwing, junk-ball approach won't slow him down before the Mariners get their money's worth.

Moyer, who had 100 wins in 6 1/2 years with the Mariners going into Thursday's game, also has the best winning percentage (.682) of any pitcher in the last six years Ñ ahead of Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Andy Pettitte. It's clear that the Mariners cannot and will not win the American League West or anything else without another big year from Grandpa, er, the money man.

'Potential' No. 1 starter Freddy Garcia Ñ Gillick and Moyer always use the word in describing him Ñ can be hot and cold. He and No. 3 starter Joel Piniero have electric stuff, 90-plus mph fastballs and off-speed pitches that still eclipse Moyer's hard one on the gun. But they are sometimes 'Wild Thing' to Moyer's 'Slow Ride,' a tune the Mariners play when showing highlights of the soft-tossing lefty.

What the youngsters don't have is Moyer's consistency, his smarts, his guile and his work ethic, all attributes gleaned from 20 years of grinding in the pros. The young guns marvel at the old fogey's ability to get batters out.

'Everybody knows what he's going to do: low cutter (fastball) in, change-up away,' says Gil Meche, another young flame-throwing pitcher. 'He doesn't miss his spots.'

Meche shakes his head when talking about how Moyer can go two balls down in the count, then back off another 10 mph on a pitch to get a strike.

'Nobody has his velocity range,' Meche says. 'If every power pitcher had his mind-set, it would be all over. They'd be dominant. Taking off and adding (speed), it's something I wish I could do.'

Adds teammate Bret Boone: 'He goes softer, softer, softer. He's got great control. He's out of the Tom Glavine mold, where he gets behind in the count, he goes slow, he goes soft, and he's got great control. It's got to be frustrating as a hitter to think, 'How'd he get me out with that pitch?' Next thing you know, you're 0-for-3.'

Hey, it works

Moyer says he threw nearly 60 change-ups in a recent seven-inning shutout of Anaheim, 'a little more than normal, but I've thrown more.'

'It's like if you're throwing fastballs by people, why would you throw something else?' he adds. 'You might end up throwing 100 fastballs; of course, that's not the case for me.'

He smiles.

'I joke around the bench, wishing there was one day in my life I could throw 95 mph,' he adds. 'And pick my nine guys that I would like to face, because none of them would need a bat. Because I'd hit all nine of them.'

He smiles again.

There are days when Moyer doesn't feel spry and strong enough to pitch seven innings and throw 117 pitches, as he did in that game against the Angels. He doesn't even feel good enough to strike out his kid. He feels like a 40-year-old office worker who can tweak his back just standing up to get coffee.

'I do sense that I'm aging a little bit,' he says. 'My arm feels good, but I have days when my body É I feel like I'm 40. Some days I feel like I'm 50. But I have many days still when I feel like I'm 20 or 25.'

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