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09/12/11 8:32 PM ET

Top prospect Moore called up for playoff push

BALTIMORE -- Following their three-game weekend sweep of the Red Sox, the Rays find themselves in the hunt of the American League Wild Race, only 3 1/2 games behind Boston. It certainly makes for an all hands on deck situation -- or more appropriately following the call up of heralded left-handed pitching prospect Matt Moore, all arms on deck.

With closer Kyle Farnsworth (right elbow tenderness) ailing, manager Joe Maddon and general manager Andrew Friedman chose to bring up the 22-year-old Moore, arguably the top pitcher in the Minor Leagues.

To make room on the 40-man roster for the young lefty, the Rays designated Rob Delaney for assignment.

In 155 innings pitched for Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, Moore was 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA and his 210 strikeouts ranked second among all Minor Leaguers.

"With Kyle being hurt right now, I thought we needed some help in the bullpen," Maddon said, adding he does not expect Farnsworth to pitch on Monday. "Why not bring your best arm to be that guy? It worked for us in the past very successfully."

Maddon is referring to the 2008 season when David Price joined the big league club over the final few weeks of the season and became a valuable contributor to a World Series run.

Now a stalwart in the Rays starting rotation, Price worked out primarily out of the bullpen during that first taste of the big leagues. Maddon expects a similar role for Moore, and will look to use him at the top innings to help mimic a starter's traditional warm-up. Ultimately Maddon said he's not going to force the young hurler into action just for the sake of it. There are both short and long term implications at stake.

"I want to be very careful with him. He's a huge part of our future," Maddon said. "It's a balancing act that you have to perform. Trying to win the game and still maintain the integrity of this fella's arm for years to come."

With his Minor League season over, Moore was planning a cross-country drive from Durham to his native New Mexico on Tuesday, when suddenly he had a new destination.

"I was getting my oil changed [Sunday], about to drive 30 hours across the country," said the fresh-faced Moore, who instead hopped on a one-hour flight to Baltimore. "And here I am on Monday in Baltimore getting ready to suit up for my first big league game in Baltimore. It's exciting times."

Maddon sees no reason for letdown

BALTIMORE -- It's natural to wonder whether a team coming off an emotional series against a division rival would be susceptible to a letdown.

That fear goes double when the next opponent is planted in the division cellar. Rays manager Joe Maddon has no such trepidation about his squad.

"If this were the middle of the season, you might be concerned a little bit about that," said Maddon before starting a three-game series in Baltimore. "But this time of year -- we've been there the last three years. We're the defending American League East champions. I believe we're going to come out with the right kind of focus and attitude. I saw it the whole weekend. I was very impressed with our boys over the weekend."

The Rays swept a three-game series from the Red Sox, have won four straight and seven of eight, and now trail their AL East rival by only 3 1/2 games for the Wild Card spot. That's not to say the Rays are waiting for October baseball to get in a postseason mindset.

"We're in the playoffs already," said Maddon. "The playoffs began for us on Sept. 9. We're going for the two month thing right now. We're going for the World Cup. Every game from our perspective has playoff atmosphere attached to it, absolutely."

Sternberg makes trip to Baltimore

BALTIMORE -- Following the successful series against the Red Sox and a run that has put his franchise in the playoff hunt, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg made the trip to Baltimore on Monday.

"The results have been better over the last six weeks," said Sternberg, before recalling his early August mindset on the Rays chances to join the playoff chase fray.

"It was about looking 2-3 weeks out, picking up a couple of games here, a couple of games there and really trying to put ourselves in a position to be five out at the beginning of September."

The Rays enter Monday seven games behind the first place Yankees and 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for the Wild Card. The Rays have won four straight and seven of eight overall, including a three-game sweep of the Red Sox.

"We can't sustain the way we're playing now all season. It's been a streaky year for us," Sternberg said. "We started off poorly, very poorly, and then we had a great run. You'd like to see a little more consistency ... but this isn't a 100-win baseball team. Nobody [had those] expectations.

"Both the Yankees and Red Sox, when you looked at them 2-3 months ago and said these are 100-plus win baseball teams. You want to get as close to that number as you can and we [have with] one of them."

Ben Standig is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.