Percival 'probably' has thrown last pitch

Percival 'probably' thrown last pitch

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Troy Percival's last game was simulated. The pain was real.

So were the results of his pitches, which along with the pain convinced him that his comeback attempt wasn't working. Percival ended it Sunday, essentially saying he'll retire barring some drastic improvement. He wants to see if his arm feels any better this year, but admitted he has "probably" thrown his last pitch.

"I always wait for something miraculous to happen," Percival said. "I probably don't think it's going to happen, but I'll keep doing what they ask me to do."

That final offering came in a simulated game Sunday afternoon that showed him where he stood against live hitting. Pitching the final inning of the six-inning contest at Joker Marchant Stadium, Percival gave up a mammoth home run to non-roster invitee Mike Rabelo, who's in camp to provide catching depth. The ball landed on the roof of the batting cage building beyond right field.

Percival finished out the inning, then later met with the coaching staff to put a stop to it.

"I've been fighting it all spring," Percival said. "I thought I could give this organization an opportunity to make a decision. I tried to go back to the arm angle I'm accustomed to and it's not there. There's a lot of pain. Right now, I can't help this club, physically. Mentally and with my heart, I think I can, but I have to be realistic and say there's just no way, physically, I can go out and help this club right now."

Percival had a fair idea about his chances before he took the mound Sunday. He said he was in enough pain warming up in the bullpen that he couldn't throw from his usual arm angle.

"I've been in pain every day," Percival said. "It's just the level of pain, whether you can deal with it or not. Changing my mechanics to do what I was doing out there, I can get by. But I can't throw the way that I'm accustomed to throwing, which is three-quarters, getting my arm away from my head. Right now, I'm forced to short-arm. I tried a few times to get my arm away from my head today and it was just not possible."

Not without probably blowing out his arm and hampering his everyday life, on top of his career. He felt what that was like last summer, when torn muscle around his throwing elbow left him unable to do everyday tasks. The muscle is still torn, but he had strengthened the remaining muscle in rehab enough to get this far.

Percival brought himself to the brink of tearing it completely. Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels team physician who diagnosed Percival's injury last year, advised him against trying to come back, Percival said Sunday. Percival also said new pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, who worked with Percival years ago in the Angels system, warned him against blowing out his arm.

"I could've blown it out completely today if I had wanted to," Percival said. "All I had to do was get my arm away from my head, get it up here and extend it and let it fly. You don't want a guy out there that's pitching trying not to blow out his arm. ...

"I would still do that if I thought I could go out there and help this club, but I don't think I can help."

The velocity simply wasn't there. He realized going into camp that his days of throwing mid-90s fastballs were done, but he was hoping to have enough to be effective.

"I've thrown as hard as I can and I don't have any arm strength," he said. "With the injuries that I had last year, there's just no arm strength there, and it hurts. The hurt I can deal with. But to not be able to compete at the Major League level is not going to help anybody."

Thus likely ends the career of one of the greatest closers of his generation. Percival is tied for 10th on the all-time Major League saves list with 324. Only Trevor Hoffman, John Franco and Mariano Rivera own more among active players.

All but eight of Percival's saves came with the Angels, with whom he began his career in 1995 and became one of the most feared closers in the game. He earned four All-Star selections, posted six consecutive seasons with at least 30 saves and recorded seven postseason saves in the Angels' run to the 2002 world championship.

Percival signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Tigers as a free agent following the 2004 season. He pitched in 26 games for Detroit last year before the muscle tears forced him onto the DL for good in July. The problem first surfaced in early May after a save against his former club, knocking him onto on the DL for four weeks. He returned for about a month.

The Tigers proceeded into this season assuming Percival would not be able to pitch. Detroit signed another free agent closer, Todd Jones, to a two-year, $11 million deal.

Add a group of younger relievers to the mix, and Detroit didn't have a spot guaranteed for Percival even if he did prove he could still pitch.

Where he goes now isn't yet certain, other than flying back home for a few days. He offered to rejoin the club in any capacity they needed, possibly as a coach or instructor. In the meantime, he will keep up his general rehab work without throwing. If he could throw two pitches in September, he said, he'd do it.

"I'm going to wait and see if this thing gets better," he said. "But for me to come out here and throw, there's no possibility that it's getting better right now."

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.