Bill Conlin | Making staff even more old school

Posted: June 12, 2007

THE MAGIC NUMBER for the Phillies Sunday was not 17, the number of runs crammed onto the scoreboard by the wretched Kansas City Royals.

Nope, it was 91. That's the combined age of Jamie Moyer, 44, who started the embarrassing destructo, and Jose Mesa, 47, who did a mopup job

so inept his application for employment has been rejected by ServPro. Media guides list Mesa as a recently turned 41. But back-channel evidence suggests he is actually somewhere in the vicinity of 47. A 6-year spread in Dominican Republic birth records is hardly unusual.

I need my cybergeek pals to see if two guys this old ever pitched in the same modern-era game. I'm sure the Phillies keep that kind of record right next to "Countdown to 10,000.''

At 57, Mike Schmidt has a better body than Mesa, Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, Michael Zagurski and Antonio Alfonseca. If he got home early enough from a round of golf or memorabilia-show gig to watch Sunday's unseemly mess, No. 20 had to be frantically speed-dialing Dave Montgomery.

"Hey, Dave, Schmitty here. Look, you've still got three in Cleveland at the end of interleague play. I'm in better shape than half your lineup. The guy you got to play third looks like I should look at age 57. If I can't pop a couple off the guys coming in from the bullpens these days, I'll take up shuffleboard.''

Actually, Mesa's pair of run-scoring, 50-foot splitters were so nasty he has been invited to try out as a cricket bowler for the crack West Indies side. All Jose needed in his emphatic return to the pinstripes was Carlos Ruiz stationed behind a wicket.

As long as general manager Pat Gillick is rounding up the usual dinosaurs for his shambles of a pitching staff, why not do it right?

If Julio Franco - Francisco Franco is still dead - can pinch- hit effectively at 48 and Joe

Table - big with the Antiques Roadshow folks - can still

relieve, let's surround him and Moyer with some ghosts from Phillies past who still might be able to exceed radar-gun minimums. But don't get me wrong, Mesa still can throw close to

double his age, whereas Jamie's age is rapidly gaining on the velocity of his changeup.

The Flomax All-Stars:

* Mitch Williams: He'll be warming up in the Comcast SportsNet Green Room and will be available for duty between "Daily News Live'' and "Phillies Post Game Live'' appearances. Mitch is just 42, finally has mastered the slide step, and the World Series throb in his arm has subsided to a dull ache. He'll be happy to provide Pat Gillick with his last three MRIs.

* Ken Howell: The hulking righthander might have had the best pure stuff of any 12-12 pitcher in Phillies history. Howell is 46, but his fan unpopularity bottomed so spectacularly during his 20-19 two seasons here (21 wild pitches led the league in 1989), he deserves another shot.

* Joe Cowley: The man who once threw a no-hitter for the White Sox, then totally forgot how to throw strikes as a Phillies starter, probably would be best suited for an early-hold role at age 46. The Phils sent productive outfielder Gary Redus to the White Sox for Cowley and some cash in 1987. Joe made four memorable starts that lasted 11 2/3 innings. An astounding 38 baserunners included 17 who walked. His ERA was 15.43.

* Ricky Bottalico: "Bo'' can work something out with Mitch over who pitches and who hammers the Phillies on Comcast.

Actually, I'll bet that Ricky, who is just 37, could be more effective than some of the jetsam flotsaming in the current bullpen. He had a nice little career here and is serious about a TV career.

Bottalico might be overqualified for this staff.

* Mike Williams: Another youngster at 38. Mike will forever be the rookie reliever who started the night the Phils clinched the 1993 East Division title in Pittsburgh. The Phillies tried to develop him as a starter, but let him walk into free agency after a 6-14 record with a 5.44 ERA in 1996. Mike wound up with the Pirates, where he developed into a quality reliever who had 46 saves in 2002. The Phillies got him back in 2003. Naturally, he was

"Mesaed'' by then.

* Greg Harris: We're still short a righthander and a lefthander in the pen, so let's fulfill Greg's career wish to put his ambidextrous skills to use in a game. Greg, the oldie of the staff at 51, made 66 appearances for the Phils in 1988, when he was 4-6 with a 2.36 ERA.

Gentlemen, throw strikes and enjoy your baseball Golden Years. *

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