Mota withstands the test of time

March 2, 2012, 2:30 am
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Spring training is the time to writefeatures. That means feature interviews. And that means hearing this stock answerfrom teammates when they talk glowingly about each other: Hes the first toarrive and the last to leave."Unless youre asking about Guillermo Mota.
Motas daily arrival has become a celebrated event in camp.Thats because he pushes the boundaries of being on time. Some players showup hours before the 10 a.m. workout. Most stroll in by 9 at the latest. One recent morning, Mota walked in at 9:46.The next day, he sauntered into the clubhouse at 9:43. Why so early? one clubhouse attendant asked him.(No wagering, please.) Motas quick uniform change at his locker doesnt bother thecoaching staff. After all, in a sense, Mota is practicing for the season. Therewere several times when a starter got knocked out and he had to get ready in ahurry. Mota rescued the Giants every single time -- and not just for that night. A "Johnny Wholestaff" game has a way of wiping out a bullpen for an entire homestand or road trip.Before last season, Mota, 38, had spent 12 years in themajor leagues and never had an appearance last more than three innings. Heended up eclipsing that mark four times in 2011, including a 4 23-inningappearance against the Minnesota Twins. (That was the infamous game in whichMadison Bumgarner gave up nine hits to the 10 batters he faced.) He has a totally rubber arm, left-hander Dan Runzler said.So it was a no-brainer to bring back Mota on his thirdconsecutive one-year contract. He even gave the Giants a break, agreeing todelay the deal for several months while they juggled their 40-man roster space. Mota never seems to worry about a thing. If theres ever a guy who was a Steady Eddie, itsGuillermo Mota, said left-hander Javier Lopez. Hes been asked to wear a lotof hats, from long relief to setup, and hes never complained a bit. He doesntcomplain about getting the ball. He doesnt complain about being sore. He setsa good example for the guys, especially for the younger guys. Including the value of sleeping an extra hour?OK, maybe not, Lopez said. But he gets his throwing in.Hes always in the weight room. Hes out there doing his work. Hes got aroutine he likes, and whos to argue? When you look at his career, there arenttoo many better relievers in the league. You dont pitch a lot unless a manager has confidence in you. Aglance at the active leaderboard for appearances shows that a lot of managershave felt very comfortable putting Mota on the mound.He ranks sixth among active pitchers with 717 appearances. You've probably heard of the guys ahead of him: Mariano Rivera, (1,042)
Arthur Rhodes, (900)
LaTroy Hawkins (823)
Kyle Farnsworth (776)
Francisco Cordero (753)When Felipe Alou first heard of Mota, he was a newlyacquired shortstop yes, shortstop -- from the New York Mets system."They told me, 'Hey! We are going to convert this guy,'"said Alou, who was managing the Montreal Expos at the time. I remember thatguy was a better fielder than any other pitcher we had. We heard he was a gooddefensive shortstop. I dont know what the bat looked like. Maybe it wasn't too good.(If Mota were present for this interview, he surely wouldhave interjected that he hit a home run in his first big league at-bat.) But I knew the arm, Alou continued. We put him on themound and I believe in two years, he was in the big leagues.Mota is one of just 16 active big leaguers remaining who wore aMontreal Expos uniform. Several big names either havent signed or announcedtheir retirement in the past few weeks. Among them: Vladimir Guerrero, OrlandoCabrera and Javier Vazquez.(Getting off on a tangent, but in fact, the Giants coachingstaff is quite the Expos alumni club. Bench coach Mark Gardner, hitting coachHensley Meulens and first base coach Roberto Kelly all played for the club. AndAlou is a special assistant, of course.) Yet here is Mota, still pushing the boundaries of time. Inevery respect.A good career, you think? he asked me. Yeah, sure. Id say so.Me too, he said.