ST. PETERSBURG — The improvement LHP Matt Moore has made from his first 10 starts of the season to his next 10 was dramatic, from a 1-5 record with a 4.76 ERA to 6-2 with a 3.32 ERA.
And after he dazzled in his last outing in Anaheim, the Rays are hoping that over his remaining starts he gets even better.
Moore, who opens the home-stand tonight against Baltimore, said there are two parts to his turnaround:
One, he is learning more about what he has to do to be successful against big-league hitters, everything from what pitch to throw in specific situations to when to slow the pace of the game. "It's all coming to me one day at a time," Moore said. "It seems like each time out I'm figuring something out or learning something new."
Two, he is feeling better about what he's doing: "Mentally, I think I may be in a little bit better of a place just because that's the way the game goes. When you're up, you're confidence is going good."
The rookie had a pattern in the minors of getting off to slow starts and improving as the season went on.
Manager Joe Maddon said he has noticed Moore getting more aggressive with his fastball in the strike zone of late. Also, he has handled the expectations better.
"I think the combination of his track record and that he's more comfortable, you're going to see better," Maddon said.
A RHYMES RETURN: INF Will Rhymes is expected to be called up before tonight's game, essentially replacing INF Brooks Conrad, who was sent down Tuesday to Triple-A Durham so a fresh arm could be added to the bullpen for two games. Rhymes has done well since going back to Durham, hitting .368 in his past 10 games.
LONGORia UPDATE: Evan Longoria returned to the Durham lineup for the fifth game of his DH-only rehab assignment. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. He said after that he felt good physically and just needed to get more comfortable at the plate. He was off Tuesday due to what the Rays said was "general soreness," not specific to his left hamstring, which was partially torn April 30.
Testing: RHP Jeff Niemann, out since breaking his right leg in mid May, is scheduled to throw a simulated game today. It could be his last hurdle before heading to a rehab assignment and targeting a late-August return.
MINOR MATTER: Hard-throwing prospect RHP Alex Colome will make his first start for Durham tonight, promoted after going 8-3 with a 3.48 ERA at Double-A Montgomery, including 5-0, 1.27 in his last five starts.
MISCELLANY: 3B Ryan Roberts is looking forward to his first game at the Trop since a 2006 appearance when he was with Toronto: "I'll figure it all out." … Saturday's USF night will feature a first pitch by former football star Anthony Henry. … A neon hat giveaway has been added Sept. 7, which also now includes a postgame performance by DJ/songwriter Calvin Harris.