02/23/12 4:30 PM EST
Moore tries to carve spot in crowded camp
Back from injury, Seattle catcher has competition for roster spot
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
He also knows he's coming back from surgery on his right knee, having torn the medial meniscus cartilage in his second game on the field last season. The once-promising prospect is now 27 years old, has played just 68 games in parts of three Major League seasons and is nearing the now-or-never time when it comes to finding a place with the Mariners.
But he also knows he's back to feeling good this spring and is ready to show what he can do and let the chips fall where they may. As he rediscovered last year, things can change quickly when it comes to the catching position.
After Moore blew out his own knee slipping on the on-deck circle in Texas while going after a foul ball, the Mariners brought up Chris Gimenez to replace him. But midway through the season, both Olivo and Gimenez got hurt in the same game, and Josh Bard and Jose Yepez were recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to temporarily fill the void.
"There is a lot of competition here," Moore said. "But with what happened last year with me going down and then Miggy and Gimenez getting hurt in the same game, it got thin quick. So you've got to go out there and get some guys in camp and make decisions."
Barring unforeseen developments in Spring Training, Moore appears to be the fourth man in what figures to be a three-catcher rotation at this point.
Olivo remains the starter entering the final season of his two-year contract. Montero was acquired as the catcher of the future and will likely play a few games a week there this year, and designated hitter the rest of the time.
Jaso was added because general manager Jack Zduriencik wanted to upgrade the depth and offensive strength of the position.
That leaves Moore needing to greatly impress Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge in the coming weeks to have any chance to regain his position as a 25-man roster candidate.
"He came in last year, worked his way into it, got better and ended up making the ballclub," Wedge said. "In a lot of ways, it's no different than that. We've got more competition, quite frankly, and better competition. So it's just a matter of what he does and how he works through it."
Moore does have a Minor League option remaining, so he likely will wind up back in Tacoma. But Moore has proven he can thrive at that level. He hit .301 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIs in 474 at-bats over two years in Triple-A ball in 2009-10.
But he's yet to translate that to success in the Majors, where he's batted .197 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 234 at-bats spread over three seasons.
"Yeah, I know that's the biggest thing," he said. "And just staying healthy one full season. I've still yet to do that. Getting in that consistent routine without getting injured. I'm not sitting here using that for an excuse, but it is the truth."
In 2010 he was just heating up with some consistent playing time when he hurt his left knee while stretching to reach the first-base bag on a close play. When he finally returned from that issue, he wound up splitting time with Bard and Rob Johnson and totaled just 60 games for the year.
Then last season, after saying in the spring that he was really zeroing in on things at the plate, he lost his entire season to the fluke knee injury in his second game of the year.
"I just believe it's getting up there, getting on a regular routine and getting consistent at-bats to find myself," he said. "I've always been able to do that in the Minor Leagues. And last year I knew going in what to expect. I've had my fair share of at-bats in 2010 to see what was going on, so I think it's just a matter of staying healthy."
Olivo isn't about to guess what might happen with the catching crew this spring, but he's been impressed with how Moore fought his way back into the mix so quickly after such a significant knee injury.
"I think he's in better shape than last year," Olivo said. "He worked hard. He doesn't even look like he had surgery. He's moving around, blocking, throwing, hitting. He's my friend and I'm happy for him. He's come a long way.
"Many catchers, when they get hurt like that, they give up. But he never did. He worked his way back, went to the Fall League and now he's come in here in good shape."
Moore, a sixth-round Draft pick in 2006 out of Nebraska, knows he faces a tough challenge to make his third straight Opening Day roster. But he'll do what he's always done. He'll compete.
"All I can do is go out there like I've done every camp and continue to prove myself," he said. "It's unfortunate I got hurt last year, but you can't sit here and dwell on it. You just have to move on, and that's what I'm going to do. Whatever happens, happens. I'd do the best I can and let them make their decisions and go from there."