LAKE BUENA VISTA Fla. -- Peter Moylan has undergone one right shoulder surgery, two Tommy John surgeries and three back surgeries, one of which resulted from hauling lift chairs while spending his mid-20s as a pharmaceutical representative in his native Australia.Moylan's baseball story had the makings to be a short
LAKE BUENA VISTA Fla. -- Peter Moylan has undergone one right shoulder surgery, two Tommy John surgeries and three back surgeries, one of which resulted from hauling lift chairs while spending his mid-20s as a pharmaceutical representative in his native Australia.
Moylan's baseball story had the makings to be a short and sad one, when at the age of 19, he returned to Australia after being released by the Twins.
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Yet, there the 39-year-old reliever stood on Tuesday morning, proudly donning the Braves' uniform yet again and allowing himself to be somewhat nostalgic about being back at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex where his tale took an improbable twist when he was pitching in the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic.
"This is where I started my career," Moylan said. "This is where I re-launched my career. As frustrating as traffic is [in the Orlando, Fla., area], this actual place here holds a real special place [in my heart]."
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Though he felt some of the same frustration other free agents have experienced over the past couple months, Moylan maintained a somewhat realistic mindset. He is 10 months shy of his 40th birthday and has a medical history that led the Braves to put him through a three-hour physical filled with multiple MRIs and X-rays before officially completing a one-year, non-guaranteed deal that includes a $575,000 base salary and an escalator that provides a $1.25 million payday if he wins a spot on Atlanta's Opening Day roster.
"As much as I feel great, it's a risk for a team to sign a 39-year-old," Moylan said. "It doesn't matter what you did last year. I'm happy to prove myself over and over again. I've been proving people wrong most of my career."
Moylan's underdog story began when he transformed himself from a pharmaceutical sales representative into the sidearm reliever who came out of nowhere to throw a mid-90s fastball against a potent Venezuelan team during the 2006 Classic. His command certainly wasn't spot on, as he recorded a strike with just 22 of his 51 pitches and issued five walks. But as he counted Bobby Abreu, Magglio Ordonez and Ramon Hernandez among his four strikeouts, he impressed enough to get a Minor League deal from the Braves.
After making a few appearances for Atlanta in 2006, the fun-loving Aussie made 80 appearances and posted a 1.80 ERA for the 2007 Braves. He underwent Tommy John surgery during the first month of the following season and then totaled 172 appearances over the next two years. The workload took its toll as he underwent back surgery and then a right shoulder surgery in 2011.
When Moylan underwent a second Tommy John surgery while pitching for the Astros during Spring Training in 2014, it looked like his career might be over. But after agreeing to become a pitcher and pitching coach for the Braves in 2015, he pitched effectively enough to gain 22 appearances at the Major League level that season. He made 50 appearances for the Royals in 2016 and then posted a 3.49 ERA while making a Major League-high 79 appearances for Kansas City last year.
"I kind of pinch myself. I told my wife the other day, 'Any kind of inning I have or any pitch I've been able to throw since 2014 -- when I blew [my elbow] out the second time -- has been an absolute godsend," Moylan said. "I take every day for what it's worth and I don't try to plan too far ahead because you never know what's going to happen. I'm just pumped I'm still able to play the game I love for the team that I love."
Moylan stands as one of the funnier players to inhabit the Braves' clubhouse over the past two decades and his humorous social media exchanges have further endeared him to Atlanta fans. He now will attempt to earn a spot as the seasoned member of what is a rather inexperienced bullpen.
"I'm open and willing to answer all questions these kids have and if they don't have questions great," Moylan said. "I'm excited to be around a bunch of younger guys. It makes me feel younger. It can make you feel older too when they're running sprints and you're just kind of looking at them pass you by."
When a reporter mentioned that Moylan's 17-year-old daughter is just three years younger than Braves top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr., the reliever smiled and said, "Yeah, they'll probably never meet."
The Braves were certainly glad to meet Moylan more than a decade ago and this latest return might create a fitting final chapter to what has truly been an improbable journey.
"Speaking to people who know him, he's loved in this organization from top to bottom," Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "Anyone he has been around feels so strongly about him, what he brings to the club, what he means as a human being and what he is as a competitor."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.