TORONTO – Given the way he’s pitched this year, coming back for a 20th big-league season in 2013 would seem like a no-brainer for Darren Oliver.
Far from it, actually.
The 41-year-old Toronto Blue Jays left-hander said Sunday he remains undecided about his future and won’t really begin to consider it until he’s back home for the winter, although he sounds like someone who may be ready to walk away from the game.
Though this campaign has been Oliver’s best as a reliever numbers-wise — he’s 3-3 with a 1.78 earned-run average over 60 games, covering 55.2 innings, allowing just 41 hits and 14 walks with 52 strikeouts — the main factor in his decision will be “my two kids and my wife.”
“I would never play this game and be away from them and take that away from them,” said Oliver. “Every kid needs a father at home. That’s important to me. I think it should be important to a lot of people. Baseball’s second. Family’s first. I’ve always said that.”
The Blue Jays hold a US$3 million club option for on him for 2013, certainly no pittance, but Oliver noted that the season is long and added, “it’s hard to be away from your family for that long.”
He’s not feeling any pressure to stay home, he said, but, “my kids just want me home. They want their dad. If I was a kid, I’d be saying the same thing, too.”
Oliver has two boys, 12 and 10, who are “at that crucial age, which way are they going to go?”
Manager John Farrell said while he’d love to have Oliver back, he’s done no lobbying whatsoever, describing the decision to walk away as a personal one. The only advice he offers is that Oliver ensures all his desire to play is burned out.
According to Oliver his performance won’t mark the tipping point – “Will that change my mind? No,” he said – nor will a desire to leave the game with a better team finish than the one the Blue Jays end up with.
“That would’ve been nice, but I’ve kind of been spoiled over the past few years,” said Oliver, whose streak of six straight trips to the post-season is coming to an end. “Like they say, every good thing always comes to an end. Teams are going to make the playoffs and teams aren’t.
“I never took it for granted, the past years when we did make the playoffs. Everybody in this room, once they get a taste of it, they’re going to know what’s it like to be there and always want to grind to get back.”
As for when a decision might come, Oliver is in no rush.
“You guys catch me in the off-season somewhere,” he said with a grin. “See what happens when I’m in the Bahamas.”