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Matt Moore to make first major-league start tonight for Tampa Bay Rays

NEW YORK — Rookie phenom LHP Matt Moore makes his first big-league start tonight against the Yankees.

RHP Jeff Niemann was scheduled to start, but he was "abnormally stiff or sore" after his last game and has been pushed back to Saturday against the Jays, manager Joe Maddon said.

Moore, 22, has pitched twice in relief since his callup, including an impressive three-inning stint Saturday in Boston. He was 12-3, 1.92 in 27 starts for Double-A Montgomery (including a no-hitter) and Triple-A Durham, with 210 strikeouts in 155 innings.

"I'm looking forward to it,'' Moore said. "I'm going to do my best to take (the day) and my pregame the same as I always have. It's a mound, and it's 60 feet, 6 inches away. As long as I can stay within myself, I'm pretty confident.''

Maddon said he'd expect Moore to be more comfortable in the starting role.

PAPA ZOBRIST RETURNS: Ben Zobrist had already cleared it with Maddon not to return until sometime Wednesday after going back to St. Petersburg to be with his wife, Julianna, for the Monday birth of their daughter, Kruse.

He waited to see how everything went, and when they learned Kruse would need to undergo an undisclosed medical procedure on Wednesday morning at All Children's Hospital, Zobrist arranged to get back midafternoon, arriving at Yankee Stadium to pinch-hit in the eighth inning of the matinee. He went on to have a rough night, striking out three more times than hitting into a double play.

"Everything's fine (with the baby); I just wanted to stay for that,'' Zobrist said. "I didn't want to leave at 7 (a.m.).''

Maddon said he had no problem with Zobrist's handling of the situation. "For me, family is always first,'' he said. "I would never interfere with something like that. … For me, it's up to the individual.''

The Zobrists arranged for the baby to be born on the off day, with labor induced, with the possibility he would miss the Tuesday and Wednesday day games.

"That was a decision that we made a long time ago and I told Joe about probably a week and half ago before we left on the road trip,'' Zobrist said. "He said, whatever you need to … take care of your family, however you feel like you should do that.''

FRISKY FARNSWORTH: RHP Kyle Farnsworth's 45-pitch bullpen session went well enough that the Rays are planning for him to return to duty as soon as Friday.

Farnsworth said he threw all his pitches (fastball, slider, cutter) and, after some initial hesitation, at full velocity. "Everything felt good,'' he said. "I felt rusty, but that's to be expected not having been off the mound for a week-and-a-half. … I thought it went pretty well.''

Maddon said the report was encouraging: "He actually came in here smiling. He felt pretty strongly about it. He's pretty close to coming back.''

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Maddon said the Yankees' actions in not naming their starting pitcher for the 1:05 matinee until 10:30 Wednesday morning, combined with chatter that CC Sabathia could be moved from the day game to the night game, had "an odor" of gamesmanship.

MISCELLANY: Game 1 starter James Shields allowed three stolen bases, after allowing three in his first 32 starts. … The Rays have scored in three innings in the series.

Matt Moore to make first major-league start tonight for Tampa Bay Rays 09/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 1:32am]

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