‘Wild Thing’ Moy­lan makes his mark with Braves

From Aus­tralia to At­lanta, Moy­lan is ready to de­liver

The Covington News - - Sports - By Paul New­berry

KIS­SIM­MEE, Fla. — Peter Moy­lan stands next to his locker in the At­lanta Braves club­house, go­ing over an in­ven­tory of tat­toos run­ning the length of each arm.

His old­est daugh­ter’s name, Mon­tana, is inked along the inside of the right arm. His younger girl, Matisse, takes up the same spot on the left arm.

What’s that near his right wrist? “A cherry blos­som,” Moy­lan replies in his dis­tinc­tive Aus­tralian ac­cent. “It’s sup­posed to rep­re­sent birth. That’s why I got that one with my old­est daugh­ter.”

There are waves — com­mem­o­rat­ing an Aussie’s in­nate love of the sea — not to men­tion a half-dozen stars on his up­per back, drawn out in the same pat­tern as the flag of his home­land. He pulls up a sleeve to re­veal his latest mas­ter­piece, a Koi fish, which is sup­posed to rep­re­sent strength in the Ja­panese cul­ture.

“I can’t go a week with­out think­ing what I’m go­ing to get for my next one,” Moy­lan said.

Re­mem­ber Char­lie’s Sheen char­ac­ter in the movie “Ma­jor League?” Well, the Braves have their own ver­sion of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn com­ing out of the bullpen.

The 29-year-old Moy­lan was down­right un­hit­table at times in his first full big league sea­son, go­ing 5-3 with a 1.80 ERA and giv­ing up just 65 hits in 90 in­nings. This year, he’s ex­pected to serve in the main setup role for closer Rafael So­ri­ano.

“He’s re­ally a good one,” Braves man­ager Bobby Cox said. “We can use him to get out of jams in the fifth and sixth, or we can pitch him in the eighth. I’d have no trou­ble pitch­ing him in the ninth. It’s great to have guys like that. He had a sen­sa­tional year. He’s go­ing to fol­low it up, too. He’s looked great down here.”

There are some mi­nor dif­fer­ences be­tween Moy­lan and Sheen’s char­ac­ter, of course.

Vaughn was signed out of the Cal­i­for­nia Pe­nal League, while Moy­lan comes from a coun­try that hasn’t been a pe­nal colony since the 1800s. But both wear geeky glasses, can throw a base­ball ex­tremely hard and took im­prob­a­ble paths to

the big leagues — whether real or fic­tional.

Moy­lan was orig­i­nally signed as a teenager by the Min­nesota Twins, only to get re­leased af­ter just two sea­sons, hav­ing never risen above the rookie leagues. He was home­sick, petu­lant and had no de­sire to put in the nec­es­sary work. He re­turned to Aus­tralia and be­came a sales­man, hawk­ing ev­ery­thing from se­cu­rity sys­tems to up­hol­stery to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Base­ball was some­thing he did on the week­ends.

But— and here’s where those “Wild Thing” com­par­isons crop up again — Moy­lan got a sec­ond chance when his coun­try needed him for the World Base­ball Clas­sic in 2006. Hewas now throw­ing sidearm, the re­sult of two back surg­eries and per­haps more ap­pro­pri­ate for a pitcher from Down Un­der. Amaz­ingly, the new mo­tion raised his ve­loc­ity well be­yond 90 mph.

He didn’t re­ally have any idea where the ball was go­ing, but no one could hit it when he did man­age to find the plate. In a “Wild Thing” of a per­for­mance against Venezuela, he struck out four — in­clud­ing big league stars Bobby Abreu, Mag­glio Or­donez and Ra­mon Her­nan­dez — and walked five in 1 2-3 in­nings.

Nev­er­the­less, the Braves were in­trigued enough to sign Moy­lan, hop­ing he could har­ness his ob­vi­ous tal­ent. Mi­nus the mo­hawk, he strug­gled to a 1-7 record with a 6.35 ERA at Triple-A Rich­mond, though he did man­age to make it up for 15 mop-up ap­pear­ances with At­lanta.

Last spring, he was one of those guys bat­tling for a fringe spot in the bullpen, with most of the at­ten­tion cen­tered on closer Bob Wick­man and new­com­ers So­ri­ano and Mike Gon­za­lez, both ac­quired in trades to bol­ster what had been a ma­jor weak­ness in 2006.

Moy­lan started out at Rich­mond, but was called up two weeks into the sea­son. When Gon­za­lez went down in May with an el­bow in­jury, his role in­creased. By the time Wick­man was let go in late Au­gust, Moy­lan was one of Cox’s most re­li­able re­liev­ers.

When­the right-han­der ar­rived at camp this year, he no­ticed right away that his locker had been moved to the side where most of the starters and top pitch­ers have their stalls. His spot last spring? Right next to the show­ers, in an area re­served mostly for mi­nor lea­guers and fringe prospects.

So he’s not about to let suc­cess go to his head. He’s come too far to let this chance slip away.

MOY­LAN

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Dou­ble play: Al­covy’s El­lis Fan­ning com­pletes the dou­ble play at East­side in ear­lier ac­tion last year.

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