ARLINGTON, Texas -- Darren Oliver definitely knows the way to the visiting clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. After all when he wasn't there on the home side during one of his three stints pitching for the two-time American League champions, the affable veteran made several appearances in Arlington as a visitor with the Red Sox, Astros and Angels.
So, when he made his latest trip to the visiting side, this time as a Blue Jay, maybe some of his younger teammates asked him in jest how well he knew the ins and outs of the visitors' home away from home.
"Obviously, it's a little different when you come back home and it's on the visiting side but it's not the first time," Oliver said before Friday's series opener.
Toronto signed the 41-year-old reliever during the offseason to help fill the seventh inning setup role and thus far, it's a role he has filled quite well for the Jays, who are in their second year under manager John Farrell. Oliver is 0-2 with a 1.80 ERA in 17 relief appearances thus far.
"There's certainly a presence about him, a calming effect to our bullpen. Very good strike throwing ability and consistency every time he's come to the mound. Even talking to him in spring training, the one thing that he's maybe evolved to over time is he's very aware of what hitters have done what against him where he can manage an inning and get through it with a lot of success," Farrell said.
As one of the more veteran members of the Jays roster, there's no doubt that Oliver's wealth of experience gained from his 14 years in the show can be an invaluable resource for his younger teammates. But as expected, the ex-Ranger is more of a lead by example kind of guy instead of someone who will get in a teammate's face.
"There are a lot of young guys. You get questions from time to time. I guess the true test will be in late July and August, when it really gets down to it, when it gets really important. It seems like everybody always talks about those dog days of August and that probably will be the true test," he said.
Oliver and his family fell in love with the Metroplex back when he made his big-league debut as a starter with the Rangers in Sept. 1993, so much so that he and his family continue to call the area home. And while he wouldn't trade his time in Arlington for anything, there is one thing he won't miss about now playing in Toronto-the heat.
"Yeah, it will be nice to be a place where it's not as hot as it is here. People say it's hot outside right now. I say this isn't really hot," Oliver said. "Give it another month when it gets about 10 degrees hotter and the game time temperature's about 100 degrees. I definitely won't miss those days."
In a perfect world, he would have been able to spend his entire career with the same club, possibly the Rangers, but this savvy veteran has been in the great game long enough to know that as Texas skipper Ron Washington once so aptly put it, that's just the way baseball go.
"No, it's just the way baseball is. It's funny how it works that way. You get traded, free agency," Oliver said. "It would be nice to stay with one team your whole career, but if you look around the league there's not too many people that do."
The Jays signed him to a one-year contract during the offseason, a deal which also has an option for 2013. This marks his first time to play in Canada, but being with the Blue Jays definitely has its share of perks, like playing for Farrell, himself a former big-league pitcher and onetime teammate of Washington's when both played in Cleveland.
"He Farrell just lets us play. He's a nice guy too. When you're winning, everybody's happy," Oliver said.
Now in his 20th season pitching in the big leagues, not only has Darren Oliver carved out a nice niche for himself first as a starter and later as a late-inning bullpen guy, but the 41-year-old right-hander has also gotten to see what life is like for nine different clubs in Major League Baseball.
Sure, he still has a ways to go to equal the number of teams played for by the likes of Mike Morgan, who once held the record at 12 or Octavio Dotel, who beat Morgan's record several years back by suiting up for club No. 13, but Oliver remains a guy who can not only still get hitters out late in games, but he can also show younger teammates a thing or two about how to take care of themselves and how to go about their business so that one day maybe they too can approach his level of longevity that can best be described in one word-incredible.