Veteran Maine a possibility for Marlins' rotation
Non-roster camp invitee hasn't pitched in Majors since '10, will start spring opener
JUPITER, Fla. -- The days of regularly throwing 97 mph are likely over for John Maine, but the 31-year-old is certainly hopeful of resurrecting his big league career.
Opportunity is presenting itself to Maine in Miami, where he has a realistic chance to win the Marlins' fifth-starter spot.
Maine's big league career was sidetracked after he underwent his second shoulder surgery in as many years in July 2010. He has spent the past 2 1/2 years battling back, including pitching in the Yankees' Minor League system a year ago.
On Saturday, the Marlins are opening their Grapefruit League schedule with a game against the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET. Maine is getting the start at Roger Dean Stadium.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander is downplaying the significance of being first in line to see game action.
"I was one of a handful of guys they could have chosen," he said. "I'm glad to be pitching, but there is nothing to be read into it."
The outing does have significance, though, because the Marlins are evaluating their options for that fifth spot. Maine, Wade LeBlanc, Brad Hand, Tom Koehler, Alex Sanabia, Kevin Slowey and Mitch Talbot are all in contention.
"He's one of those guys we're looking at to see if he can be the fifth starter," manager Mike Redmond said. "He's definitely in the mix. We'll see if he can get back on track."
For Maine, his scheduled two innings provide a chance to get back to the basics -- throwing quality pitches and showing he can get hitters out.
Prior to his injuries, Maine prided himself on having a durable arm. He'd regularly long toss at 300 feet. But in 2008, he had surgery to remove a bone spur, and more arm trouble followed two years later.
"It's hard," he said. "For me, my whole life, I never had to put a bag of ice on my arm.
"My arm was always fine. I took good care of it. I did all my exercises. I stayed in shape. I could always throw every day. I could have started twice every five days -- that's how my arm was. Surgery and another surgery later, it takes its toll."
Maine's career started with the Orioles, where he pitched 2004-05. From 2006-10, he was with the Mets. His finest season was 2007, when he was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA, while logging 191 innings.
In five years with the Mets, Maine went 39-32 with a 4.17 ERA.
A non-roster invitee with no guarantee of making the Opening Day roster, Maine essentially has a fresh start.
"We're not concerned about what happened in the past," Redmond said. "We're worried about moving forward, and what he can do now. I know that he's had success in the past. If he can come back and be that guy, it's going to be a big help for our team."
Maine had arthroscopic surgery to clear out scar tissue in his shoulder in July 2010, and he hasn't been back to the big leagues since.
The physical setbacks caused a decrease in velocity. Now he can't rely primarily on power, but he feels that he still throws hard enough to make an impact.
"I don't expect to get back to throwing 97, but I was topping out in the mid-90s," he said. "It's just the feel on pitches. I missed basically 2 1/2 years. It's not going to be one month getting it back.
"It's just getting back to pitching. I spent the last two years just trying to get my arm healthy to throw, instead of actually working on pitching. Now that it's good, I'm just getting back my mechanics, finding everything -- release point, stuff like that. I'm done worrying about my arm being healthy. Now, I just have to become a pitcher again."