BRADENTON — C Jose Molina had a few words for LHP Matt Moore after not particularly liking what he saw in the first inning Friday. After that, Molina couldn't say enough good about the 22-year-old rookie, who worked six solid innings in a 3-3 tie with Pittsburgh.
"I felt like he wasn't pushing it," Molina said. "He was trying to get a feel for it. But I told him he has to pitch like it's in-season form. We have to get in that form, so let's go. He picked it up really well."
Moore had made only two appearances, covering just four innings, in big-league exhibitions, a result of the week he missed with an abdominal strain and a minor-league outing last week. He welcomed the 88-pitch workload, allowing one run on three hits (including a Casey McGehee homer) and pleased with his changeup but not his fastball command.
"Getting up and down six times and getting 90 pitches out of my body was nice," Moore said. "It feels like we're coming along nicely."
Moore will have one more spring outing, likely Wednesday at the Trop, then make his first start April 10 in Detroit.
NEXT Patients: RHP Jeff Niemann is the latest member of the injury list, scratched from today's start due to a blister on a finger on his right hand.
Niemann, who won the final spot in the rotation over RHP Wade Davis, isn't scheduled for his first regular-season start until April 11 or 12. The Rays say they don't expect the injury to be an issue then, though they are not certain when he will resume throwing.
"It's not awful. It's just something we want to watch to make sure it does not become awful," manager Joe Maddon said. "So that's why we backed off right now."
RHP Fernando Rodney remains "sore and swollen" from being hit on the right forearm by a line drive Wednesday. But Maddon said he would "really be surprised" if Rodney were not ready for next Friday's opener.
GAME DETAILS: The Rays (8-16-4) took a 3-1 lead on Molina's three-run double in the seventh. But RHP Burke Badenhop gave it right back, allowing a two-run homer to Matt Hague. … The game was called after nine innings because the Pirates were out of pitchers. … With Reid Brignac playing the whole game at short, Sean Rodriguez subbed at second for only the second time this spring. But Maddon said that wasn't an indication Brignac, who just returned from injury, had reclaimed the starting job. … Nonroster RHP Romulo Sanchez had another solid inning, drawing praise from Maddon.
MISCELLANY: With Niemann out, the Rays will make today a bullpen game with closer Kyle Farnsworth expected to start. … Maddon and staff will attend tonight's BaseBALL Gala in Punta Gorda benefitting the Charlotte County Boys and Girls Clubs. … The Rays went 4-0-1 vs. Pittsburgh.