Very few players in baseball enjoy their greatest success under the shadow of retirement. That fraternity becomes even smaller when you consider pitchers. still, there are a few that find a way to succeed despite the mileage on their arms.
Jamie Moyer enjoyed his best years from the age of 32 to he turned 40, and then seemingly made a deal to find the magic one more time at 45.
R.A. Dickey, the man without a ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, has gone from journeyman to staff ace after finding the knuckeball and the fountain of youth in New York, becoming a staff ace at the age of 35 and a first-time all-star at 37.
Toronto Blue Jays reliever Darren Oliver is another one of those guys. While not as highly decorated as the aforementioned fellas, Oliver is nonetheless a marvel to behold.
At 33-years-old, officially washed up as a starter, playing for Florida and Houston, and failing to impress with either. He would spend the entire 2005 season in the minor leagues both Arizona and Chicago’s systems trying to make it back as a starter, but to no avail.
However, Oliver found a way to resurrect his career in 2006, making the full-time transition to the bullpen with the Mets. At 35-years-old, the move paid off, as Oliver has used his rubber arm to become a stabilizing force out of the bullpen as a middle reliever in both inning-eating situations and high-pressure moments.
Now in his 19th season, Oliver has enjoyed his best season to date, registering a 3-4 record with a 2.10 ERA and 52 strike-outs in 61 appearances for the Blue Jays. With Toronto’s penchant for injuries, Oliver has been one of the only consistent and productive presences on the team in 2012.
However, all good things must eventually come to an end, and Oliver has managed to drag this out as long as he could. That said, it is understandable that the talk of his retirement is picking up steam. For his part, Oliver is not hinting toward any direction.
“I’m not thinking about it right now,” Oliver said. “I’ll worry about that when the season’s over, when I’m at home, relaxing.”
The Blue Jays do hold a $3 million team option for 2013, and given his performance this past season, there is no reason that they would not pick up the option. The true test comes when Oliver is home with his family, weighing if he has one more year left in him.
“I would never play this game and be away from them and take that away from them,” Oliver said. “Every kid needs a father at home. That’s important to me. I think it should be important to a lot of people. Baseball’s second. Family’s first. I’ve always said that.”
And that’s the way it should be. Still, the Blue Jays will be more than happy to leave a light on for Darren Oliver, at least for one more season.