Simply Baseball Notebook straight from the source Dec 2002

For Damian Moss, the Future is Now

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The Atlanta Braves farm system has become a breeding ground for pitchers.  The latest in a long line that includes Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Kevin Millwood is Australian southpaw Damian Moss.  With the impending loss of Glavine and Greg Maddux to free agency, Moss looks to be an integral part of the Braves' future.

Born in Darlinghurst, Australia (near downtown Sydney), Moss actually began playing baseball by accident. "My soccer coach wanted to keep our team together in the summer, and he played baseball, so he started up a tee ball team," the rookie explained.  "I fell in love with it and kept on playing."

Coincidentally, the Braves were his favorite team, "I really started following baseball in '91 when the Braves went from worst to first - I was a big Braves fan," Moss said.

The sport is gaining popularity in Australia, but is not yet up to the level of rugby or cricket, "It (baseball) is popular, but not as popular as some of the Australian sports," Moss commented. There are a lot of summer sports in Australia, so baseball doesn't get the recognition it deserves."

While he was growing up, Moss played with Twins pitching prospects Brad Thomas and Grant Balfour.  His baseball career, however, did not begin on the mound. "I was playing in a national tournament and a lot of scouts come out to those things.  They saw me in right field and stuck me on the mound," the 26 year old explained.

The Braves signed Moss as a free agent in July 1993.  He progressed smoothly through the farm system until 1998 when he suffered a serious arm injury that required "Tommy John" surgery. Named after the long time big league hurler, the procedure requires the removal of a ligament from the elbow of the non-pitching arm, the ligament is then transplanted into the throwing arm.

"When you have a surgery like that, you are always worried that you won't be able to come back," he said.

After a year of rehabilitation, Moss recovered fully, and made his major league debut late in the 2001 season.  He had a successful spring training in '02, and made the Braves opening day roster. The rookie began the year in the bullpen, but was added to the rotation when Greg Maddux was place on the disabled list in May.  Moss served as the team's fifth starter for the rest of the season.

Moss, however, was content in any role.  "At the start of the year I was coming out of the bullpen and then some injuries happened and I was starting," Moss commented.  "When you are the fifth starter you are going to get skipped (in the rotation) a couple times - I was fortunate to come out of the bullpen to get an inning or so just to keep my mechanics sharp."

Moss had little trouble getting big league hitters out during his rookie campaign.  On May 3rd, he had a no-hitter hitter going through seven innings before manager Bobby Cox pulled him in the 0-0 game.   The disappointed Moss understood the decision, "Bobby is a great manager.  He would have liked to see me go for the no-hitter also, but he's also looking out for my future," the Australian explained.  "I had thrown a lot of pitches -  it just shows what a great manager Bobby is and how much he cares about his players."

Moss had the unique advantage being in the rotation with two multiple Cy Young Award winners.  "They (Glavine and Maddux) are a big credit to my success Glavine especially; he helped me a lot as far as mechanics," the left hander said.  "We are similar type pitchers, it's good to have a guy that is going to be in the Hall of Fame....to help me along."

By all accounts, Moss' rookie season was a success.  He posted a 12-6 record, a 3.42 ERA, and held opponents to .221 batting average (6th in the NL).  Those numbers warranted Rookie of the Year consideration (he finished 5th), but the laid-back rookie didn't worry about that during the season.  "I try not to think about (Rookie of the Year) - there is a lot of hype about it; a lot of people talking about it," he said in August.  "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen I can't control it."

Being one of only a handful of Australians in the big leagues, Moss has to deal with the silly stereotypes and misconceptions that many Americans have about his homeland.  One the of the biggest is that Fosters is 'Australian for beer.' "I don't think anybody in Australia drinks Fosters," he commented.

Despite the stereotypes and misconceptions, living in the U.S. has been an easy adjustment for Moss. "Australia is more laid back....I'm not saying Atlanta isn't - it's the South and everybody's laid back too.  There are a lot of similarities as far as the type of people," he explained.

The Atlanta Braves are in a period of transition.  Stalwarts like Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux will likely not be back in 2003.  The organization needs young players like Damian Moss to step forward if  the Braves hope to continue their winning tradition.

-David Zingler

Moss' page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

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