KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rays starter Matt Moore's problems are no longer just mechanical.
Moore was removed from Monday's game with left elbow soreness in the middle of a fifth-inning at-bat and will have an MRI exam this morning to determine what is wrong.
Moore said he was hopeful that it might be just a hyperextension, and optimistic based on initial tests that there was no structural damage.
"At this point all the tests and stress stuff that they're doing on me, it's not really making me feel concerned in that regard," he said.
Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged after the 4-2 loss that they wouldn't know for sure until getting the MRI results. But he said head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield, after talking with the Royals doctor who did an initial exam at the stadium, told him he considered the injury less severe than last year's, when Moore was sidelined for more than a month due to soreness.
Moore, 24, said he felt only the soreness — and no pop or sharp pain — while throwing his changeup during the fifth inning, with no prior issues during the game or even since he started throwing in spring training.
"It really came out of nowhere," he said.
After missing all of August last year, Moore admitted that he came into camp wondering how it would feel and was "being careful" throwing the changeup since it had led to last year's injury.
"It was something that probably was in the back of my mind leading into camp, but once the ball kept coming out, coming out I had no fear with that particular pain or whatever in my elbow," he said. "There was nothing there."
As he went through an eventful spring, which included bouts with wildness, mechanical breakdowns and a scary incident where he was struck in the face by a ball that resulted in a cut lip, Moore said he "completely forgot about it" until Monday.
"That's why it came as such a surprise out there," Moore said. "It was very frustrating to be out there and have that feeling."
He said he felt some soreness on two changeups to leadoff man Alcides Escobar, then after no issue on a curve he felt it on a change to Nori Aoki, his 78th and final pitch, grimacing noticeably and shaking his arm. He indicated to catcher Ryan Hanigan and the bench there was something wrong, and said later it was "pretty much the exact same spot" as last year.
Moore's fastball velocity was clocked between 90-94 mph Monday, and Maddon said he didn't see any reason for concern until Moore summoned them to the mound. Moore wanted to stay in and at least throw some fastballs, but Maddon said he wasn't taking any chances.
Moore said he was encouraged that during testing, he could not recreate the soreness.
"I am feeling good about where I am right now as far as moving (the elbow) around," he said. "I think it's a good thing I can't really find a place to make it uncomfortable anymore."
If the Rays need a long-term replacement for Moore, the first choice likely would be veteran Erik Bedard, who re-signed a minor-league deal with the Rays after losing out to Jake Odorizzi on the fifth starter's job in spring training and worked four innings Monday for Triple-A Durham. Bedard would have to be added to the 40-man roster, and the Rays would risk losing him if/when they wanted to send him back to the minors.
Other options include Cesar Ramos, who relieved Moore on Monday and also showed well during the spring competition, or lefty Mike Montgomery, who is on the 40-man roster and showed well in his season debut Sunday for Durham.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]