Newspaper article International New York Times

Comeback Ends after One Step Goes Awry ; Mulder Was Impressive in Angels' Camp, but Tore Achilles Tendon

Newspaper article International New York Times

Comeback Ends after One Step Goes Awry ; Mulder Was Impressive in Angels' Camp, but Tore Achilles Tendon

Article excerpt

Mark Mulder, who last pitched in the majors in 2008, hoped to return with the Angels this year, but he snapped his Achilles' tendon over the weekend.

Mark Mulder was always proud that the competition never drove him from the game. When Mulder was healthy, he was a force. His shoulder betrayed him after 103 major league victories in his 20s, and he accepted the occupational hazard. He did not miss baseball, he said, because he knew his body would not let him play it.

"I hated the game, because I knew, driving to the park every day, that no matter how hard I worked, no matter what new thing I tried, it wasn't going to work," Mulder said Saturday morning, before the first scheduled bullpen session of his comeback attempt with the Los Angeles Angels. "It was like being let down every single day. It just wore me out."

Mulder gave up in 2008, with the St. Louis Cardinals, after two walks and a weak pickoff attempt in the first inning of a game in Philadelphia. He played golf, analyzed games for ESPN and helped raise his children. He was content, he said, not a bit restless.

Then last fall, while watching a playoff game, he noticed a pitcher separating his hands up near his chest in his delivery. Mulder had always broken his down by his belt. He stood up in his living room and mimicked what he saw on TV, and like that, his arm action felt natural, better than it had in years.

It was invigorating, Mulder said, and the more he fiddled with it, the more he convinced himself that at 36, he might have something left. He signed with the Angels and prepared so thoroughly that he reported having already thrown sessions of 120 pitches to simulate the starter he used to be. His fastball touched 92 miles an hour.

"We talked about it three days ago in our first meeting: Mark Mulder may be a little ahead of the rest of the guys in the room," General Manager Jerry Dipoto said. "It's almost laughable -- we're talking about the 36-year-old who hasn't pitched in six years. But every time you watch him throw, guys are just gushing about how well he's throwing and the presence he brings."

And then, an hour or so after Dipoto spoke on Saturday, it was all over. …

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