Thursday, September 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Checking in on MLB's comeback attempts

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Weeks ago, several MLB comebacks were just beginning. Fading stars, previous retirees, shamed expatriots, and ghosts of their former selves all gathered in training camp for one more shot.

We now know the inspiring or very sad end to each of their stories, including ones that we didn't even talk about a few weeks ago.

Mark Mulder, 36, Angels

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  • Mulder's was the most famous story, as he seemed so deeply buried in retirement that a comeback had not even been rumored. Then, there he was, getting signed by the Angels and having a real shot at seeing a Major League mound.

    That came to a sudden, tragic halt when Mulder's left Achilles tendon ruptured. 

    Chone Figgins, 36, Dodgers

    Figgins' career was gasping for life after crumbling in its tenth season. The speedy infielder couldn't muster a batting average close to .200, but was given a shot by the Dodgers as they continued their mission to collect every ball player in the universe.

    Figgins had said that his goal was to be on the plane to Australia, and he was there as the team climbed the steps to their trans-continental flight. His spring training numbers are actually pretty terrible (.167/.326/.194, 12 SO, 9 BB) and it's not like the Dodgers have a shortage of options. If Figgins is on the roster come Opening Day, the Dodgers will have decided this was one of those times when the preseason stats didn't tell the whole story.

    Ryan Braun, 30, Brewers

    Braun has been well-trained in his comeback, knowing that angry writers and fans are just waiting for him to snap at somebody. His involvement with PEDs and subsequent avoidance of a true statement regarding his usage of them sort of ruined him in their eyes, and the road to forgiveness is both long and endless. But Braun doesn't care, and calls himself an "artist" now for some reason.

    The fans in Milwaukee seem okay with it, and they'll probably be even more okay with it because in his first at-bat of the spring:

    Obviously, if he does well, it'll be because of steroids, and if he doesn't, then all of his previous success will have been because of steroids. The vitriol will never end, and all Braun can say about it at this point is where he expects it to be the strongest. 

    HINT: One place is Philadelphia.

    Ryan Madson, 33, no team

    Madson, sadly, is still without a team. He is more often cited as an example of Reds relievers who have gotten hurt in Spring Training in recent years, rather than, say, a possible replacement for Aroldis Chapman, who was of coursea Reds reliever who was hurt in Spring Training this year.

    Madson hasn't pitched since 2011 and despite "leaving" the Phillies, he has never pitched to another team due to injury. Healthy now, and with so many team searching for pitching depth, you have to wonder.

    Joel Pineiro, 35, no team

    Pineiro is also still without a team, and according to Pedro Gomez at ESPN, he looks great. Of course, Pedro Gomez isn't the greatest judge of anything, so his word can be taken with a grain of salt, if at all.

    Still, Pineiro threw a bullpen for no less than 12 teams. That seems a wide enough net for an able-bodied, experienced reliever to catch on somewhere.

    Grady Sizemore, 31, Red Sox

    Picking him up for cheap would be a smart, cheap gamble for any team seeking outfield help. More specifically, corner outfield help. More specifically, Phillies, why did you not pick Grady Sizemore up?

    Of course, they didn't. The Red Sox did, giving themselves another face to grow a beard on and comeback story with which to charm the national writers. And Sizemore deserves any success, after his very promising career in Cleveland was ruined by injury after injury after sugery after surgery.

    He is all in one piece, not balking at the idea of making contact with a wall, and hitting .310 with .678 OPS in 30 plate appearances. Sizemore looks good, and if he gets his chance, it will be well-deserved and astute of the team who signed him.

    Bobby Abreu, 39, Phillies

    Well, it was looking like Abreu had a spot waiting for him on the Phillies bench, especially with Darin Ruf straining an oblique. But it's not like Abreu has impressed, hitting under .200 for most of camp until recently (.257/.422/.400 in 45 PA). Obviously he completely owned as far as OBP goes.

    Are these terrible numbers? Mostly, yes. But can you name a Phillies in Spring Training who doesn't have terrible numbers or at least one injury? Mainly just Tony Gwynn, Jr. - who may be the reason Abreu doesn't get a spot.

    Justin Klugh Philly.com
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