Moore excited to make first spring appearance
Back from ab strain, MLB's top prospect to pitch in relief Tuesday
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tampa Bay will finally roll Matt Moore out of the showroom.
After being slowed by an abdominal strain in the early going of Spring Training, the highly touted Rays southpaw -- ranked by MLB.com as the No. 1 prospect in baseball -- will pitch in a game on Tuesday against the Orioles in Sarasota.
"It's exciting, because it will be my first time out for the year, so I'm definitely looking forward to it," Moore said.
Moore, 22, experienced a meteoric run through Tampa Bay's farm system before bursting onto the Major League scene in September. After making his debut in a relief stint Sept. 14 at Baltimore, he made his first start Sept. 22 at Yankee Stadium and held the Yankees scoreless through five innings while walking one and striking out 11. Then he shut down the Rangers in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, claiming his club's only postseason win.
So Moore has a playoff victory in the Majors, but he has never pitched in an exhibition game for the Rays.
"Yeah, I think talking about it is a little weird," Moore said. "... It does sound a little funny."
Manager Joe Maddon said the oddity spoke to Moore's maturity and talent.
"The maturity part is the fact that he can pitch well during a Minor League season, never having been through all of this, and get into the playoffs and perform as well as he did," the Rays manager said.
Moore, who many have pegged as the early choice for AL Rookie of the Year Award honors, will follow David Price when he pitches Tuesday.
"[Pitching in relief] is something I don't have too much experience with, but it should be easy enough with four innings to get ready," Moore said.
Moore said finally getting on the mound during a game will be a relief.
"To get out there and get into the games and start to contribute is something I've been looking forward to this whole time coming back from this little hiccup," Moore said.
Moore has maintained patience while coming back from the abdominal strain.
"It wasn't really as frustrating as if this was the season and I was supposed to be performing right now," Moore said. "We're all here getting ready for the season. A part of that is things like a little strain coming and going. We're moving on from there right now."
Moore won't hold anything back against the Orioles. He plans to throw all of his pitches.
"I think early on [in camp], the reason I wasn't throwing all of my pitches was because I didn't want to confuse myself too much with three pitches," Moore said. "So I was like, 'All right, let's just do the changeup now and worry about the curveball later.'"
The young lefty doesn't feel as though he's in a situation where he's struggling to make up for lost time.
"We'll see how it goes [Tuesday]," Moore said. "I've been feeling good my last two [bullpen sessions]. And I've been throwing a lot of strikes. That's something I've been happy about, just being able to be around the zone with all of my stuff."
Moore is scheduled to throw two innings on Tuesday, and he'll follow that with four outings before the start of the season.
"I've been watching his little practice gigs in the back and he's looked really good," Maddon said. "So he's absolutely ready to go."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.