(Jamie Moyer, shown here with the Norfolk Tides recently, could be with the Las Vegas 51s in Tacoma on Thursday)
One of the most tantalizing pitching matchups of the season is shaping up for Thursday night, and it won’t be on a major-league diamond — even with Felix Hernandez facing the Red Sox at Safeco Field that night. You’ll have to drive to Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium to watch the Rainiers play the Las Vegas 51s — Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays — to watch it. Which I plan to do, by the way.
Danny Hultzen will be starting for Tacoma, making his second Triple-A start and his home debut with the Rainiers. Just the opportunity to see the Mariners’ top pitching prospect is enticing enough. But then came the news today that Jamie Moyer, the 49-year-old marvel, has signed with the Blue Jays and was assigned to Las Vegas , where he is expected to join the rotation.
I contacted a 51s representative, who told me that right now, the 51s starting pitcher for Thursday is listed as “TBA.” But he added in an email that the word from Toronto is that Moyer will be added to the Triple-A roster on Thursday, and is expected to start that night for Las Vegas. “Of course, this is subject to change,” he concluded. The 51s are in Tacoma for three games, from Wednesday through Friday, with each game starting at 7:05 p.m.
If it doesn’t change, and it turns out to be Hultzen vs. Moyer, what a fun matchup it would be. On one side, you have the 23-year-old Hultzen, after tearing up Double-A (8-3, 1.19 ERA), trying to bounce back from a sub-par Tacoma debut in Colorado Springs. In three innings, he gave up five hits, five walks and five earned runs. But Hultzen also struggled in his first Double-A start and rebounded to be nearly unhittable thereafter. If he pitches well for a few starts in Tacoma, it’s easy to imagine Hultzen, last year’s first-round draft pick, joining the Mariners’ rotation some time after the All-Star break.
On the other side, there’s Moyer, whose quest to keep pitching as he closes on age 50 has been followed closely this season. Moyer, who won 145 games in 11 seasons with the Mariners, began this season with the Rockies before being released after 10 starts with a 2-5 record and 5.70 ERA. He then signed with the Orioles and was 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Norfolk. But Moyer asked for, and received, his release when the Orioles didn’t call him up. Now he’s trying again with the Jays, who suffered the latest in a series of pitching setbacks on Monday when Henderson Alvarez was pulled from his start against Boston with a sore right elbow.
If it happens, it would be a classic matchup of youth vs. experience, a touted young prospect against a wily old veteran, two pitchers separated by 26 years. Any baseball fan would love to see that.