Mulder's baseball future unclear

Mulder's baseball future unclear

MILWAUKEE -- The agent for left-hander Mark Mulder refuted reports Monday that the former All-Star had decided to retire, but former A's teammate Eric Chavez spoke with Mulder and was told that he's "done."

So which is it? The answer might lie somewhere in the middle.

"I never said 'retirement.' That's the wrong word," Mulder himself told the San Francisco Chronicle late Monday. "The thing is, physically, I feel great, but my arm just doesn't work the way I want to work, so I just shut it down from throwing. But I never really said I was going to retire; I'm 32 and I don't feel like there's anything physically wrong with me."

Instead, Mulder is putting his all-out throwing program on hold and hoping for a breakthrough later.

"That's why retirement is the wrong way to put it," Mulder told the newspaper. "Whether or not I get it going again, I don't know. I'm not ruling anything out. But retiring? No."

Chavez spoke via telephone with his ex-teammate after reports began swirling that Mulder was calling it a career instead of continuing his rehabilitation from multiple rotator cuff surgeries. That news was first reported Sunday night by WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, where Mulder had been mulling a Minor League comeback.

Mulder has been dogged by a shoulder injury since 2006 and Chavez can relate to the southpaw's difficult decision. Chavez has been limited to 121 games over the past three seasons by back and shoulder injuries.

"I know one thing for sure was that if Mark didn't feel right, he wasn't going to come back," Chavez said. "He wanted to come back 100 percent and didn't want to suffer like he has been the last couple of years. Once you've played a game at a certain level and dominated, it becomes a lot tougher to come back. You want to tap into your abilities and know you can still perform well. He wasn't going to do it if he knew he couldn't be successful and contribute.

"It must have been a really hard decision, especially considering how short his career was. I can definitely relate to what he's been going through, and I know how hard it is to weigh all the factors and decide if it's worth it to go through with everything."

But on Monday, agent Gregg Clifton said Mulder hasn't made a decision.

"Mark has not decided to retire," Clifton wrote in an e-mail to MLB.com. "He is reassessing his options in his efforts to come back."

In separate comments to the Chronicle, Clifton said, "I'm not saying Mark won't [retire]. But he has not made any decision."

Mulder was the American League Cy Young Award runner-up in 2001, and an All-Star in '03 and '04. He has been limited to six appearances since '06 because of rotator cuff woes and didn't pitch at all in '09.

Brewers officials, including Peterson, met with Mulder in Arizona in early January and later extended him a Minor League offer with an invitation to big league camp. But he was slow to respond, leaving club officials to wonder about his commitment to a comeback. Then came Sunday's report that Mulder was to retire.

"It doesn't surprise me," Peterson said. "He really had to think about whether he wanted to go through this."

Peterson worked with Mulder as recently as last summer on correcting some flaws in his delivery. Mulder also has a backer in Brewers manager Ken Macha, another former Oakland colleague.

"I would feel really bad about that [if Mulder retired]," Macha said. "He was a good person and a pretty darn good pitcher for me in Oakland. He's too young to call it a career."

The second overall pick in the 1998 Draft, Mulder is 103-60 with a 4.18 ERA in parts of nine seasons with the A's and Cardinals. He won at least 15 games in five consecutive seasons from 2001-05, four of those working with Peterson in Oakland. In '05, Mulder went 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 32 starts with the Cardinals, but he was limited to 17 starts the following season as shoulder injuries derailed his career.

Adam McCalvy and Jane Lee are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.