PEORIA, Ariz. — After 14 major league seasons, Kevin Millwood might still have a place on a big-league roster. His reputation as a durable pitcher and experience mentoring young pitching staffs are part of the reason Millwood finds himself in the Seattle Mariners’ camp.
If the 37-year-old can produce during spring training, he might find himself with his fourth club in four seasons. Once an ace in Atlanta and Texas, Millwood signed a minor-league contract last month and is competing for a spot in Seattle’s five-man rotation.
“I still enjoy the game, and I still feel like I can compete at this level and win ball games,” Millwood said. “As far as helping young guys, I’m open to doing that anytime. My first priority is to do what I have to do to make the ball club and then after that, I’ll do what I can to help anybody.”
Millwood must stand out in a crop of young arms in order to stick with the major league roster when the Mariners’ season begins. His experience gives him an edge — he has 163 career wins — and the Mariners have largely unproven pitchers competing for the other spots in the rotation.
Millwood accepts his current status and role as seasoned vet and elder statesman. Reflecting on a long career will come when he retires.
“It seems like it’s been that way for the last six or seven years, even before I got old,” Millwood said, laughing at the notion that he’s been the older veteran presence at each of his recent career stops. “But I enjoy talking baseball and trying to help guys figure things out and try to get better.”
Baseball is still fun, he said as he glanced around a Mariners clubhouse abuzz with activity before on-field workouts.
“I enjoy the guys. There’s a lot of things in this game that make it fun,” Millwood said. “This year’s kind of weird. I didn’t really know anybody coming in here. You have to learn a lot of new guys and make new friends, but it’s been a good time.”
Millwood has more familiarity with the Mariners coaches than his teammates. He pitched for Cleveland in 2005 when Mariners manager Eric Wedge was guiding the Indians. Wedge has raved about the work Millwood did with C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee when they were emerging stars with the Indians.
“Kevin has been around for a good number of years now, he’s had a few stops along the way with some different pitching coaches and he knows himself very well,” Seattle pitching coach Carl Willis said. “How he goes about his business in a very confident way, that ‘Hey, I’m following the program, at the same time, I’m doing what I need to do within the program and not pushing the envelope.’ I think everyone sees it.
“He’s very comfortable in his own skin, he knows how to prepare and I think he’s a great example for our younger guys to watch,” Willis said.
Seattle appealed to Millwood because of the presence of Wedge and Willis, among other coaches. Yet there was more to it than that.
“They’ve got a lot of good young talent here,” Millwood said. “You get guys headed in the right direction, you never know what could happen.”