CLEARWATER, Fla. - The world moves at a dizzying pace these days. In a volatile stock market, fortunes can be made and lost and made again in a few hours. Reputations can be altered forever by a YouTube moment that circles the globe in minutes.

By that measure, baseball's offseason is an eternity. So it was only natural for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to wonder exactly what he would see from 45-year-old lefthander Jamie Moyer when spring training rolled around again.

After all, by the time Moyer took the mound at Bright House Field yesterday for the Phillies' exhibition opener against the Cincinnati Reds, it had been more than 4 months since he last pitched under game conditions. That was last Oct. 6, at Coors Field in Colorado, when the Rockies completed their Division Series sweep.

Moyer pitched well that night - one run on five hits in 6 innings - but that was a loooong time ago.

"Sometimes, you think at his age, one of these days he's going to have to go," Manuel admitted.

Exhibition games don't really mean much for 230-game winners. If Moyer had been cuffed around, it certainly wouldn't have meant that he's toast.

At the same time, watching him breeze through three shutout innings of the Phillies' 8-1 win, allowing one single and striking out three, gave the manager a warm and fuzzy feeling.

"For him to go out and pitch like that, it makes you feel good," Manuel said. "He hasn't lost a thing."

Moyer wasn't ready to go quite that far.

"It's a starting point," he said. "You come to spring training and you go through your drills and your bullpens and your live batting practice. Each is a step. And this is another step. You go out and have your first outing and you try to get your feet underneath you."

He's now the oldest player in baseball, but he insists he doesn't think about that.

"To me, the age thing is just a number. You have your good days and your bad days. Life goes on. I'm going to make the best of every day I have here," he said.

The one concession Manuel makes to Moyer's age is to monitor his pitch count carefully. The numbers show that, up to 75 pitches, opposing batters hit .266 against him. When his pitch count rises above that . . . .346.

Beyond that, the Phillies are hoping that he can once again stay healthy (he was the only member of the original rotation who didn't go on the disabled list last season), once again pitch about 200 innings (he ended up just short at 199), once again reach double digits in wins (he was 14-12).

"At some point, some days, your body doesn't allow you to do things like you did when you were 25," Moyer said. "The thing I've learned is that you listen to your body and you become smarter in that respect. And then you try to learn in those ways and if it starts to happen again, whether it's fatigue or soreness or stiffness, kind of make a mental note of that.

"And then if it happens again during the season you say, 'Oh, yeah, here's what we did to remedy that in spring training.' And maybe that way you take care of it in a day or 2 as opposed to a week or 2 weeks."

He swears he isn't even thinking about retirement.

"The way I'm going to look at it is that I'm going to take this season for what it is and give it my best," he said. "If I retire at the end of the season, I retire. If I continue to play, I continue to play. To concern myself with that now would kind of get in the way of what I'm trying to do.

"I think I'll know inside when the time comes. Maybe it's next week. Maybe it's Sept. 15. Maybe it's July 1. Maybe it's 3 years. I don't know. Hopefully it's in 3 years. But for right now I feel pretty darn good. I'm pretty happy with where I am.

"One year at a time."

And what is he trying to do?

"Get myself in good shape. Contribute. Make every start like I did last year. Get as deep into games as I can and turn it over to the bullpen. Win baseball games," he said.

He's noticed that his back gets stiff more often than it used to and that his legs may get sore more easily. That's to be expected and he's learned to respond by altering his workout routine as needed.

Jamie Moyer is in his third decade of pitching professionally. In a disposable world, he's been amazingly consistent. Things change but, so far, he hasn't. And the Phillies are counting on that continuing for at least another season. *

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