So they didn't pitch in the majors last season. So they haven't won a game in years. So they're old. So what?
With not enough pitching to be found and more money than ever to be made, guys are rushing out of retirement to take the mound this spring, and teams are anxious to hire them.How else to explain Jim Palmer? Len Barker? Guillermo Hernandez? Goose Gossage? Who's next, Warren Spahn?
"I'll be interested to see who the first pitcher is to win a game at age 50," Matt Keough said before checking into California's camp.
Keough, 35, has not pitched in the majors since 1986. He's been in Japan since then, and last year was injured and went 7-9 with a 5.00 ERA for Hanshin. Still, he impressed the Angels enough at winter workouts to be invited to Arizona.
"I really hadn't planned on returning to the majors," he said. "It's an opportunity, that's all. But you figure the average salary is going up about $100,000 a year, and at that rate, why not try?"
Keough's best season was 1980, when he won 16 games with a 2.92 ERA for Oakland. Come to think of it, the comeback kids now popping up in spring training would've made a pretty good staff that year: Palmer, Barker, Floyd Bannister and Keough as starters and Steve Howe, Gossage and Hernandez as stoppers.
"There's a shortage of pitchers out there. Everybody knows that," said Barker, a 19-game winner in 1980. "I owed it to myself to try."
Barker, 35, pitched in the senior league this winter before it folded. He tried out this week for the Yankees, who did not invite him to camp but understood his motivation. Barker left, and said another team was interested.
"The nature of the game, the way the game is structured, brings these people out," Yankees manager Stump Merrill said. "Wouldn't you like to hook on with somebody?"
Howe did. Despite being suspended six times for alcohol and drug use, the 1980 National League rookie of the year was invited to the Yankees' camp. Howe turns 33 next month and has not pitched in the majors since 1987.
"The biggest part is finances for my family," Howe said. "I'm not going to lie to you."
It's enough to make someone like Catfish Hunter think about one more try. At 44, the Hall of Famer has been content to work with Yankees pitchers in spring training - until now.
"I'm ready. You got a pitching coach to watch me?" Hunter joked.
Palmer, 45, got a 26-year-old pitching coach at the University of Miami to work with him during the winter. The former Baltimore ace was invited this week to the Orioles' camp, and he was expected to arrive Saturday for workouts.
Palmer is trying to become the first Hall of Famer to pitch again, and would like to start. Gossage and Hernandez would be happy to win relief roles.
Gossage, 39, and Hernandez, 36, each last played in the majors in 1989. Texas wants Gossage as a middle reliever and manager Bobby Valentine said the right-hander has a real chance.