03/13/12 6:51 PM ET
Poised, confident Moore has 'wow' factor
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
After being slowed by an abdominal strain in the early going of Spring Training, the highly touted southpaw -- ranked by MLB.com as the No. 1 prospect in baseball -- pitched against the Orioles.
Looking poised and confident as he started the fifth, Moore faced six batters in 1 2/3 innings, allowing no runs and no hits while striking out three and walking one. He threw five of six first-pitch strikes, and 21 of his 32 pitches went for strikes.
"Overall I think it went pretty good," Moore said. "It was a warm day, so it didn't take much for me to get my body going, and I felt good because I was able to work down in the zone with all of my pitches. I thought for my first one this spring, it went well."
"Awesome," catcher Jose Molina said of Moore. "No other way to describe it. He threw good. Hit the spot, right on target. He's where he wants to be at this point. [I'm] just glad that he got out there and got the first one out of the way. Now he just [has to] come back next time and keep doing it."
In short, Moore looked like Roy Hobbs pitching to "The Whammer" at the train station. Baseball is just not supposed to be so easy.
"Matt Moore was exceptional today," manager Joe Maddon said.
Of particular note was Moore's changeup, which fellow left-hander David Price calls "the equalizer."
Maddon is also smitten with Moore's offspeed treasure, and he cited the pitch as being one of the differences between his two overpowering southpaws.
"You saw the changeup that Matt's able to incorporate," Maddon said. "I mean, David's got good other stuff. But Matt, that one pitch that Matt has, it's one of the better ones, I think, that I've seen in the Major Leagues already, as a left-handed changeup, to go with the same kind of fastball.
"David relies on other offspeed pitches, but I don't know if he has one as devastating as Matt does. And I think therein lies a little bit of difference between the two. Velocity and movement, competitiveness is all kind of equal. Matt, his one other pitch, that's the thing that may catapult [him]."
Moore, 22, experienced a meteoric rise through the Rays' farm system before bursting onto the Major League scene in September. After making his Major League debut in a relief stint on Sept. 14, at Baltimore, he made his first Major League start on Sept. 22, at Yankee Stadium, and held the Yankees scoreless on four hits 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 for the Rays' only win of the postseason.
The Rays signed Moore to a contract worth a guaranteed $14 million over five years, with a maximum value of $39.5 million over eight. He appears to be an overwhelming favorite to earn a spot in the rotation, even though the Rays already have one of the best in baseball. He's that special.
Moore, who said that physically he feels "perfect," should have four additional appearances this spring, which would easily get him primed for the season.
On Tuesday, Moore was at ease both on the field and off. He even joked with reporters after the game about the odd fact that he appeared in the playoffs before ever throwing a pitch in a Major League Spring Training game.
"Now all the butterflies are over with," he said.
Though Moore was pleased with his outing, he didn't seem too impressed with himself. He liked the fact that he threw all of his pitches, though he felt as though he was "overthrowing" the ball "a little bit" in his second inning.
"But those are just adjustments to get worked out as I have more appearances," he said. "[I just need to] keep going. Get guys out. Continue the program with [head athletic trainer] Ronnie [Porterfield], and stay healthy so when the season starts, we'll be 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.