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Ageless wonders

National | Just because San Diego reliever Jesse Orosco is the oldest player in baseball doesn't mean he can take it easy.

Issue: "Baghdad set free," April 19, 2003

Just because San Diego reliever Jesse Orosco is the oldest player in baseball doesn't mean he can take it easy. Sure, he might be a one-out specialist for the Padres-one of the major league's worst teams-but the veteran in his 24th season may also have one of the toughest jobs in baseball.

When the Padres need an out against one of the National League's many talented left-handed hitters, the Padres call on the league's most enduring southpaw. And with NL lefties like Larry Walker, Todd Helton, Shawn Green, and home-run king Barry Bonds, Mr. Orosco's specialty should be in great demand. In the 25 showdowns between Mr. Orosco and the San Francisco slugger, he's allowed just four hits and struck out Mr. Bonds nine times.

He turns 46 on April 21, but has no plans of yet retiring. Said Mr. Orosco, who first debuted for the Mets in 1979: "My arm is very healthy right now. I'm going to keep going until they just say, 'Jesse, you don't have it anymore.'"

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Mr. Orosco, who holds the record for pitching appearances, is one of many aging MLB stars who will make 2003 a milestone season. Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens is fast approaching both his 4,000th strikeout and his 300th win. Arizona's Randy Johnson should also strike out his 4,000th batter this season. At the season's beginning, Texas' Rafael Palmeiro needed 10 more home runs to reach 500 for his career, a feat Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa accomplished earlier this month. And Mr. Bonds should reach 650 career home runs near the All-Star break.

That highlights the curious state of things in baseball today: a sport where the oldest pitcher still dominates the league's best batter, the 38-year-old Mr. Bonds. And you thought this was a young man's game.

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