By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Reliever Kent Mercker envisions that retirement will be a life filled with quality family time, a ton of golf and plenty of leisure.
But he's not ready for all of that just yet.
Following ligament replacement (Tommy John) surgery on his left elbow in August, Mercker had all but said the time for retirement had come. Turning 39 in February, the free agent left-hander has a timetable to return to the Majors by June at the earliest. Expected to make a full recovery, he is working out at his Dublin, Ohio home and rehabilitating his arm to get ready to pitch again.
"It's a great job," Mercker said on Saturday afternoon while appearing at Redsfest inside the Duke Energy Center. "If I have the opportunity to do it, I'd be ignorant not to. Who knows? It may be hurt forever. I have to put some closure to it one way or another."
If time heals all wounds, it also allows people a chance to change their minds.
"When I first had [the injury], in my mind, I didn't want to play anymore. What's the point?" Mercker said. "I went through the surgery. Why not go through the rehab? You can't play this game long enough. It's the best job on Earth. It's a cliché, but it really is if you have the opportunity to do it. Not many other companies are calling me to say 'If you're able to, we'll pay you X amount of money to play a game.' I figure if I get one that does do it, I should take advantage of it."
Before his season-ending surgery on Aug. 17, Mercker was 1-1 with a 4.13 ERA in 37 games. If he returns, Cincinnati would benefit from his veteran presence and leadership in the clubhouse.
Mercker and the Reds have had some talks. Although not given a formal offer, he'd likely be invited to Spring Training if he's able to throw by then. The pitcher said his agent has also fielded calls from a couple of other teams interested in his medical status.
"We'd be welcome to bringing Kent Mercker back, absolutely," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "If he wants to continue to pitch, I would hope he'd want to come back with us. We'll have to work that out as we go. He'd be a welcome addition in Spring Training. At some point when he's ready to go, he'd help the team."