After two years away from baseball, pitching for the Grasshoppers against a team called the Crawdads in low Class A baseball suited Dustin Moseley just fine.
A veteran of 101 games in the major leagues, Moseley decided to give his career one more try after shoulder surgery two years ago. On Sunday, he donned a green Hoppers jersey, started and pitched five innings against Hickory, leaving with the game tied 4-4. The Hoppers went on to win 6-5.
"I'm just as excited to put on a Hoppers uniform as I would be any uniform," Moseley said, smiling broadly. "I'm glad to be able to put on a uniform and cleats again."
His line in the box score shows he gave up four runs, five hits and no walks with five strikeouts. But he was more effective than that. Two of the runs were unearned because of shaky defense behind him and another came on a double past first base that manager David Berg that was a foul ball. He got better as the game went on, retiring eight of the last nine batters he faced.
"It was amazing," Moseley said of pitching competitively again. "There were parts of the game I haven't missed, but I realized how much I missed the competition and being around (teammates). The guys made me feel welcome and it was a lot of fun."
How did he evaluate his outing?
"I thought I did pretty well," he replied. "I located all four pitches for strikes. I'm a command pitcher, not a flamethrower, and I was pretty efficient. I just feel good that my arm didn't fall off."
Far from it.
"He's a veteran, he's polished and he knows how to use his stuff and command it," said pitching coach Jeremy Powell. "His delivery looked good and hopefully he can build from here and end up back in the big leagues. The fourth and fifth were his best innings."
It was a comeback win for the Hoppers, who fell behind 4-0 in the top of the third inning. They got one run back on Brian Anderson's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third. In the fourth, Juan Avila led off with a walk and, after two batters struck out, J.T. Riddle singled and Austin Dean worked a walk to load the bases. Carlos Lopez followed with a two-run single to cut the lead to 4-3.
"Austin did a great job drawing the walk to give me a chance," Lopez said. "I just looked to hit the ball hard somewhere and wound up taking it up the middle."
Greensboro tied it in the fifth on singles by Avila (who had three hits) and Joel Jimenez, a bunt single by Yefri Perez and a throwing error by pitcher Ryne Slack. That set the stage for Lopez in the sixth. Dean opened with a single and Lopez cracked his fourth homer of the year, giving him four RBIs for the day.
"I'm not a home run hitter," Lopez said. "but it's nice to get one when it helps the team. I got a fastball inside and I got my hands through it. I didn't know it was a home run until I rounded first base."
Ramon del Orbe followed Moseley and pitched three innings to pick up the win. He gave up a run but it could have been worse. The Crawdads loaded the bases in the seventh with one out, but del Orbe got Joe Jackson to foul out and Travis Demeritte to pop out.
Miguel del Pozo earned his second save with two strikeouts and a flyout in the ninth inning.
"Del Orbe covered three innings in a close game for us," Powell said, "and got some big outs. He did good work with the bases loaded. Del Pozo responded great, getting first-pitch strikes three times."
Berg said "I'll take every win we can, but there's not too many times you win when you make five errors. You could tell Moseley has been out there before and he was definitely excited to be here."
Powell said he hoped some of Moseley's maturity and savvy will rub off on the rest of the staff. Moseley, who is 32 and last pitched in the majors in 2011, said he doubted if anyone on the roster had heard of him.
"I'm a role guy, not an all-star," he said. "But I would like to make an impact here. I talked to the guys and they told me they've had a lot of success."
Moseley had a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff and after surgery was told the odds were 50-50 that he would ever pitch again. He followed his own rehab program, started throwing again in February and began to increase his velocity. The Marlins were among several teams that saw him work out and signed him. He figures to make at least one more start for the Hoppers.
"I still have to prove I can get people out," he said.
The series concludes with a 7 p.m. game Monday, with Ryan Wertenberger starting for the Hoppers.