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Phil Niekro is in the best shape of his life

Feb 8, 2010, 6:15 PM EST

Niekro AP.jpgReally, he’s rarin’ to go:

Phil Niekro claims he’s in great shape, and if the wind is
favorable enough, the 70-year-old right-hander said he can still crank
his fastball up in the 80-mph range . . . “I’m in excellent shape,” Niekro said on a conference call with
reporters on Monday. “In fact, I’m on the boat right now fishing, and I
just got done throwing this morning. My fastball is up to about 81
[mph] now with the wind behind me, so yeah, I’m looking forward to [the
Classic].

What he means is the Hall of Fame Classic, the exhibition game played in Cooperstown in advance of the inductions in late June. Neikro was announced today as one of seven Hall of Famers who
will play this year.  Bob Feller will be there too, as he was last year. As will newcomers Rollie
Fingers Goose Gossage, Gary
Carter, Harmon Killebrew and Mike Schmidt.

The real question: If Niekro can really throw 80, and if he still has even a modicum of control over the knuckler — to the extent anyone ever really has control over a knuckler — how much better is he than, say, the Royals or the Mets fifth starters this year?

  1. motherscratcher - Feb 8, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    Or the Indians 5th starter…or their 4th. Maybe even their 3rd.
    Then again their 2nd is Carmona, so that’s possible too.
    Come to think of it, the “ace” is Westbrook and he hasn’t pitched in 2 years since they re-attached his arm.
    Hey Shapiro, get that old man on the phone. Feller too.

  2. MVD - Feb 9, 2010 at 4:00 AM

    Niekro is probably still better than half the scrubs on half the teams, but, yeah, definitely the Mets 5th starter. Could probably get on base better than Frenchy too.

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