Percival unlikely to pitch in majors again
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Troy Percival visited his Tampa Bay Rays teammates before Tuesday night's game with the Los Angeles Angels and the closer sounded every bit like someone who has thrown his last pitch in a major league game.
"I don't think you're retired until the paperwork's in. But it's safe to say as of right now, I don't see that I'm going to be able to throw a whole lot," said Percival, who hasn't thrown in more than three weeks because of tendinitis in his right shoulder.
"I still wish I was out there playing, but at least my mind is clear that I just can't physically do it. I mean, I might try one more time to throw a bullpen [session]. But every time that I've tried to, that second day is really bad," he said.
Percival, eighth on the career saves list with 358, was 2-1 with a 4.53 ERA and 28 saves last season. He missed 42 games on three stints on the disabled list because of hamstring and knee injuries.
The 14-year veteran had only one save after Aug. 13 and was bothered during the final months of the season by tightness in his back, forcing manager Joe Maddon to leave him off the postseason roster.
"I tried the best I could to help the team, I started realizing that I was hurting the team more than helping it," he added. "I mean, every time I'd get up, there were two guys getting loose -- before I even threw my first pitch. That's not usually a good sign that I'm helping the team, because I'm making guys throw more than they should."
Percival underwent back surgery in early December and signed a two-year contract extension with the defending AL champions that is paying him $4 million this season. But the four-time All-Star appeared in 14 games this season, allowing eight runs in 11 1/3 innings and recording six saves before going on the disabled list May 22.
"It wasn't getting any better," said Percival, who turned 40 on Sunday. "Even after I took three or four weeks off, it was the same thing. As soon as I tried to throw two times, it was no good.
"I think I pushed it way beyond what it probably should have gone, but I don't have any regrets," he added. "I mean, I could have signed a one-year deal and been happy. I probably could have waited to come back at the halfway point this year and might have been a little more sound. But I'm not going to look back at it."
Percival's leadership last season helped the Rays' bullpen mature as a unit. It entered Tuesday with a 3.45 ERA, tied for second-best in the majors.
"Those guys down there are ready," he said. "I mean, last year they needed a little guidance. They needed to see what it takes to get the job done. But these guys are awesome. They don't need me anchoring them anymore -- and I mean 'anchoring' them."
Before the game, Percival visited with a number of old friends from the Angels organization, including manager Mike Scioscia, his coaching staff and former Angels general manager Bill Stoneman -- now a senior adviser with the club. Only six players remain from his final season with them -- including injured pitchers Scot Shields and Kelvim Escobar.
"I've never forgotten my days here," said Percival, who got the final out in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. "They've always been cherished by me, but I've had good times in other spots, too. I mean, I loved my time in St. Louis. And my time in Tampa -- what we did last year was probably one of the biggest accomplishments that I've had in my career, just to be a part of that."
As for his future plans, Percival said: "I'll just live like everybody else -- come to a game and watch it from the stands, I guess."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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