The Mark Mulder Lottery Ticket

By David Hill

It is difficult to get excited about a pitcher that has not appeared in a major league game in six seasons. In fact, considering those last two seasons involved injuries and astonishing ineffectiveness (a 12.08 ERA and a 2.763 WHiP) it is highly unlikely that the pitcher would have anything left. However, no matter how much of a longshot, the chance of being able to cash in a lottery ticket could make such a signing worthwhile. For the Angels, that lottery ticket is Mark Mulder.

June 26, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; ESPN analyst and MLB former pitcher Mark Mulder before the game between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Mulder certainly has the accolades, having been a two time All-Star and finishing second in the 2001 American League Cy Young vote. However, those days have long since passed, as Mulder had his last effective season in 2005. He even referred to his time with the Cardinals as getting by on smoke and mirrors, fooling the opposition into making outs.

"“It was smoke and mirrors that first year in St. Louis. It was just sinker or split, because I had nothing else. My arm action was kind of deteriorating. And I’m gonna run with it. I’m gonna see what happens.”"

Now, Mark Mulder has a new delivery and has seen an increase in his velocity. His fastball was clocked in the low 90’s, and he appeared to command all of his pitches. His delivery has been reported as looking smooth and repeatable. Instead of putting strain on his shoulder, which has undergone numerous surgeries, most of the strain is on his legs. If these reports are accurate, and Mulder shows that he has something left in the tank, it may be that he could find himself in the mix for a spot on the Angels pitching staff.

As rare as it is, Mulder’s comeback is not unprecedented. Jose Rijo made a comeback similar to Mulder’s, missing six years due to arm injuries and even receiving a vote for the Hall of Fame. Rijo managed to come back in 2001, and was moderately effective as a spot starter and relief pitcher for the Reds.

Can Mark Mulder make the same type of comeback? No one, even Mulder himself, knows the answer to that question. Yet, if the reports are accurate, and Mulder is throwing the ball that well, it is possible that Mulder could find himself in the mix for a spot in the Angels pitching staff, perhaps even as their fifth starter.

Mark Mulder is quite the lottery ticket for the Angels. He could, however, pay off more than even he likely expects.