You can never have too many left-handers, and the Atlanta Braves have brought back one they know quite well, as they signed Damian Moss to a minor league contract Saturday.
The 29-year-old Moss was in uniform Sunday on the back minor league fields at Disney. He will now compete for a spot in Richmond's rotation, with the possibility of being an option for Atlanta if needed later in the year.
"I'm glad to come home," Moss said.
Moss just finished pitching for Australia in the WBC. He started against the Dominican Republic last week and suffered a loss (4 runs on 4 hits in 2.2 innings, 4 walks, and 1 strikeout). The scout that signed Moss as a sixteen-year-old for Atlanta back in 1993, Phil Dale, was his pitching coach on the Australian team and recommended him to the Braves.
After seven and a half years in Atlanta's minor league system, Moss made the big leagues at the end of the 2001 season. Then he joined the Braves' rotation as the number five starter in 2002, going 12-6 with a 3.42 ERA in 33 games (29 starts), 140 hits allowed in 179 innings, 89 walks, and 111 strikeouts.
The Braves then traded him to the San Francisco Giants that next winter along with Merkin Valdez for right-hander Russ Ortiz. Moss started 20 games for the Giants in 2003 (9-7, 4.70 ERA) before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles in the Sidney Ponson trade. Moss was 1-5 for the Orioles in 9 starts at the end of the 2003 season.
"The trades are tough," he said. "It's always tough to leave the organization you came up with. You're trying to fit in somewhere and relax a little bit, and then all of a sudden you're getting traded again. It's just part of the business."
Moss started 2004 with Tampa Bay and went 0-1 with a 16.88 ERA in two games. Then he pitched in 20 games for AAA Durham and was 5-9 with a 5.87 ERA. He ended 2004 in Louisville for the Reds, pitching in four games. Moss was in the Mariners' system last season. He was 9-7 at AAA Tacoma in 25 games (24 starts) with a 3.73 ERA, 125 hits in 137.2 innings, 68 runs, 57 earned runs, 75 walks, and 93 strikeouts.
Now Moss will compete for a job in Richmond's starting rotation with an eye on getting back in position to return to the big leagues.
"I want to go there and put up some good numbers," he said. "Now it's just a matter of getting that opportunity. I had a good year last year, and I should have probably been in the big leagues with the Mariners, but things just didn't work out. So I'm just going to go out there and grind it out and see what happens."
Last year John Foster was a mid-spring training signing and was in the big leagues by mid-April. With left-handers always being in need, perhaps Moss will be this year's help from the farm system signed in March.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. You can reach Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.