A Dozen Players We Can’t Believe Are Still Active

While spring training is a good time to catch some of the games top prospects that are in major league camp and even some Tim Tebow, it is also a time to find former All-Stars and forgotten about veterans who are hanging on for one last shot. Here are a dozen of the more interesting blasts from the past still clinging for one last shot to make The Show even though the odds may be stacked squarely against them

Joe Nathan

As recently as 2013, Nathan saved 43 games and made an All-Star team while pitching for Texas. But after Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2015, the veteran righty threw 6 1/3 innings in just 10 major league games last season for the Cubs and Giants — the team that drafted Nathan way back in 1995 as a shortstop.

All these years later, the 42-year old currently sits eighth all-time with 377 saves and he’s a six-time All-Star. He’s also looking for another chance after latching on with the Washington Nationals on a minor league deal. The Stony Brook graduate has allowed three runs in five spring innings, but there are jobs in the Nats bullpen up for grabs.

Jimmy Rollins

Of the 65 players taken in the first two rounds of the 1996 amateur draft, two men remain active: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and Rollins. The aging veteran slashed .224/.287/.351 (78 OPS+) for the Dodgers and White Sox over the past two seasons and failed to catch on with another team after Chicago released him in June. The former MVP did, however, receive a call from TBS, who hired him as a postseason analyst.

The 38-year old infielder signed a Minor League deal with the Giants in December that would give him a $1 million salary if he returns to the Majors. In 14 spring-training at-bats, Rollins has just two singles. The longtime Philly has earned nearly $100 million in his career, but he isn’t ready to hang ‘em up just yet.

Bronson Arroyo

Despite not appearing in a big league game since 2014, Arroyo asked his old team for one more chance to prove he can still pitch and the Reds were willing to give it a try. The 40-year old has been through Tommy John elbow surgery and a shoulder surgery since he last pitched for Cincinnati in 2013. But after 15 big league seasons and 145 victories, Arroyo is determined to give it one last shot.

The singer/guitarist saw his first action of the spring in a special intrasquad game on Tuesday against players in the Reds’ minor league camp. Arroyo threw one inning and he’s expected to make his Cactus League debut Sunday against the Brewers.

Willy Mo Pena

A fan favorite due to his light tower home run power, the 35-year old Pena hasn’t appeared in a big league game in more than five years. He signed a minor-league deal with the Indians without an invite to big league camp, meaning he’s reporting with the organization’s minor leaguers and his chances of returning to the majors is slim.

Pena’s last work in the United States came in 2011, when he hit .204 with seven homers and 15 RBI with the Mariners and Diamondbacks. The Tohukua Rakuten Golden Eagles decided not to pick up his 2016 option, and Pena did not play pro ball at all in 2016. He suited up for the Orix Buffaloes in 2014 and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2013 and 2012.

Carlos Quentin

Willy Mo Pena and Carlos Quentin are back in the game?  What year is it? After failing to make the Twins roster out of camp last season, Quentin asked for his release rather than taking a spot at the Triple-A level. That brought an end to his most recent comeback attempt, but it seems he’s giving it one last shot after agreeing to a minor league deal with the Red Sox.

Quentin, who was named an All-Star in 2008 and 2011, did not receive an invite to Major League camp. But it’s been reported that he has lost 40 pounds after spending time last year in the Mexican League. Boston doesn’t have a lot of depth in the outfield in the minors so Quentin will most likely begin the season in Pawtucket.

Michael Morse

After two forgettable seasons with the Marlins and Pirates, 34-year old Michael Morse is back with the San Francisco Giants. Back in 2014, he cranked 16 homers in 131 games and became a postseason hero with the go-ahead RBI in Game 7 of the World Series. The Pirates released Morse two weeks into the 2016 season, and no one else picked him up. He figured his career was over.

Morse started doing some broadcast work for CBS Radio and the MLB Network, but he’s back wearing a uniform thanks to a chance encounter with San Francisco general manger Bobby Evans at Hunter Pence’s wedding in November. The journeyman outfielder probably wouldn’t accept a job at Class AAA and he isn’t interested in joining another organization. If he doesn’t make the team, he said, he’ll go back to his family, and at least this time know it’s truly over.

Brandon League

The veteran reliever is somehow still only 33-years old and he’s one of 22 non-roster invitees in Kansas City camp. League, a 2001 second round pick of the Blue Jays, hasn’t pitched professional since 2015, or in the big leagues since 2014, after struggling with shoulder ailments. He picked up 74 saves in his career and has totaled a 3.65 ERA across parts of 11 seasons with the Blue Jays, Mariners and Dodgers.

Jonathan Sanchez

League isn’t the only forgotten about pitcher to pop up in Royals camp. The 34-year old Sanchez did not pitch competitively in 2016 after being released by the Reds in spring training. The southpaw debuted for the Giants back in 2006 and he’s accumulated 786 1/3 big-league innings, a no-hitter and a 2010 championship ring.

Sanchez has not appeared in the big leagues since struggling in five outings with the Pirates in 2013, and he’s struggled with control issues through the years. He signed a minor-league deal with the Royals, a team he briefly played for in 2012, and his comeback attempt is off to a rocky start. In two spring innings, Sanchez has allowed 8 hits and 8 runs.

Micah Owings

Although Owings hasn’t seen big league action since 2012, the 34-year old showed enough last year during a stint with the York Revolution of the Atlantic League to draw a call from Seattle’s general manager Jerry Dipoto, who goes back with Owings dating back to the time both were with Arizona.

After missing most of 2014 and all of 2015 with arm issues, Owings tossed 106 2/3 frames for York last season, recording a 4.30 ERA. While he is trying to pitch his way onto Seattle’s roster, it would be more interesting to see him suiting up for a National League team because of the way he swings the bat — he even attempted to crack the majors as an outfielder back in 2013 with the Nationals.

Ryan Vogelsong

Vogelsong missed more than two months after taking a Jordan Lyles fastball off his face last May, but he was back throwing off a mound within two weeks. His finished with a 4.81 ERA for the Pirates last year and settled on a minor-league contract with the Minnesota Twins. He is competing for a job in the Twins’ rotation, but a role as a long man seems more likely.

The 39-year old journeyman’s career path includes Tommy John surgery in 2001, three seasons in Japan (2007-09) and two World Series rings with the San Francisco Giants. He was a National League all-star in 2011 and has earned every penny of his more than $20 million in career earnings.

Neal Cotts

The 2016 campaign saw the veteran lefty sign a slew of minor league deals, but he never made it back to the Majors despite solid results at the Triple-A level, where he pitched for the Angels, Rangers and Yankees affiliates. With the Nationals, Cotts is competing for a bullpen job in Spring Training, and he’s gotten off to a solid start, tossing four scoreless innings.

Tomo Ohka

The 41-year old signed a minor league pact Baltimore back in December, without an invite to big league camp. Ohka is trying to return to the majors for the first time since 2009 by turning himself into a knuckleballer. The Blue Jays brought him into camp during Spring Training in 2014 so he take some pointers from R.A. Dickey and provide another knuckleball pitcher to work with the team’s catchers.

Ohka ended up signing with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Independent Atlantic League, where he pitched two shutouts and finished with a 7-12 record. Over the last two years, he has pitched in a Japanese independent league and continued to work on his knuckleball. If Ohka can somehow work his way back to the major, he will join Bartolo Colon as the last remaining former Expo still around. He is also notorious for being mentioned in an episode of The Simpsons when Bart Simpson said, “Look at me! I’m Tomokazu Ohka of the Montreal Expos!”




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