July 1, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees former player David Cone is introduced before the 66th annual Old Timers Day game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Former Royals Pitchers Who Should Join Roger Clemens in Comeback

Roger Clemens surprised many by signing with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League today. The 50-year-old former Cy Young winner worked out in front of the Astros as well, spurring some to guess that he may get a look in September with them if he can demonstrate he still has some gas in the tank.

It’s a curious move, and some have suggested it’s done to reach the big leagues and push his candidacy for the Hall of Fame back five years in light of the controversy about PEDs and his perjury trial.

But perhaps that’s cynical. Maybe he can still go. He’s always been a competitor.

With his return in mind, I thought about a few Royals pitchers that I’d like to see try to make a comeback. My criteria is simple: how fun would it be to see them back on the mound in Kansas City?

Kevin Appier

Really, who wouldn’t want to see Appier dust off the cleats and take the mound again? He’s the career leader in pitching bWAR as a Royal and one of the most underrated pitchers of the 90s. He never got the win totals to open enough eyes, as evidenced by his 1993 third place finish in Cy Young Voting.

He was a workhorse in his prime but also suffered some arm injuries. There were still flashes of brilliance, though. In a sense, those flashes he showed in 2003 upon returning to the Royals almost work as his “unretirement” phase. I would guess that that slider-slash-“thing” could still get some batters out.

Tim Belcher

I don’t know why, but whenever Tim Belcher pitched against the Royals, I felt like he was a machine sent to beat the Royals. My memory deceives me, however, and I now have the aid of the internet to tell me that my perception then was very wrong. Against the Royals, Belcher made nine starts and carried a 7.41 ERA. My fuzzy memory must be based off of a few outings where he went deep into the game.

I think I just bought into the wily veteran reputation when he signed with Kansas City before 1996 but he did have some of his better seasons with Kansas City, especially among seasons in the twilight of his career. Belcher was the Indians pitching coach until stepping down at the end of last season. Maybe he can use his experience in coaching to make a return. Like Clemens, Belcher is 50 years old.

Jeff Montgomery

Montgomery had some of the best seasons of any reliever in Royals history and in the process made a few All-Star teams. Nowadays, we see him on the Fox Sports Kansas City broadcasts of Royals games, but he could still bring it, I bet.

Monty never relied on gas like a lot of closers. Instead, he used multiple pitches and hit his spots. Those kinds of pitchers can last a long time in the league if they can muster up the guile to keep getting batters out. In a recent Royals television segment, he showed he’s not afraid to challenge a hitter, as he plunked Rex Hudler on the hip (which elicited some cheers from some viewers, I’m sure). He still wants to claim that plate as his.

Bret Saberhagen

He won two Cy Young Awards as a Royal. He was the 1985 World Series MVP. He threw the most recent no-hitter in team history.

After arm troubles, he bounced around the league, but by this point, he’s got to be recovered, right?

Jose Rosado

Just because.

Rosado is one of the great “what-ifs” in Royals history. A two-time All-Star and a lefty with promise, his career was snuffed out due to shoulder injuries that he never recovered from. His issues began right as the Mike Sweeney/Carlos Beltran/Jermaine Dye teams started to develop into run-scoring teams and a solid starter would have helped that group out immensely.

Instead, Rosado’s final game as a big leaguer came as a 25-year-old.

He’s currently just 37 years old. Maybe he could throw right-handed?

David Cone

Cone had such a strange history as a Royals pitcher. Traded for virtually nothing to the Mets, he developed into a star before signing with Kansas City before 1993 with high expectations and much fanfare. He ran into terrible run support that year and despite a 3.33 ERA and 138 ERA+, he finished just 11-14. The following year, of course, he won the Cy Young Award.

Then the Royals traded him to the Blue Jays for virtually nothing in a salary dump, which we can see how was an omen of future salary dumps and traded stars. He later pitched in four World Series for the Yankees.

There are so many more pitchers who’d be fun to see again. Oh, they’ll never do it because, let’s face it, trying to pitch to major league hitters now when you’re 50 years old just isn’t a likely scenario for success. Typically, the batters will tell the pitchers when it’s time to hang them up.

But just in case. Just supposing. On the off chance that a Royals pitcher wanted to come out of retirement and try it again, those are the guys I’d most like to see pull a Clemens.

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Tags: David Cone Jeff Montgomery Kansas City Royals Kevin Appier Roger Clemens

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