Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Moore takes modest approach to All-Star Game

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — Fathers, in theory, always know best. And Marty Moore is certain his son Matt should walk comfortably and confidently into the Citi Field visiting clubhouse in New York on Monday as a member of the American League All-Star team.

"I think it will just reaffirm that he's where he's supposed to be and doing what he's supposed to do," Marty Moore said.

But don't expect to see Matt strutting down the stadium hall and bursting through the doors.

Moore is obviously thrilled to be part of the team, named to the squad Thursday as an injury replacement. But having recently turned 24, in just his second full season in the majors, with only 51 starts to his name, Moore is a little leery about taking his place among the game's elite.

"I'm sure it's going to be eye-opening getting in there for the first time," Moore said.

As impressive as Moore's statistics are, sharing the major-league lead with 13 wins, and as well as he has pitched, with 12 quality starts among his 19, he acknowledges he has to make considerable improvements to truly be considered among with the best pitchers.

"Absolutely," Moore said. "When I throw right now, we're still talking about the very basic building blocks. I'm sure in certain conversations you don't necessarily talk as much with the Prices, the Verlanders, the Wainwrights, the Kershaws, you don't talk much about fastball command early in the count. It's there. That's already established. …

"Just how repeatable they can be inning to inning, jam to jam, baserunner to baserunner, you can expect the same type of stuff. I don't think you're holding your breath too much when those guys are out there. They're in control.

"I feel like sometimes there's moments when the dugout might be holding their breath with me right now. So I wouldn't exactly feel comfortable by any means saying I'm close to where I'm going to be."

How far away is he?

Quite a bit actually, which might not be the most comforting news for hitters around the league.

"He can be considerably better," Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "I would say he's probably somewhere a little bit halfway past his potential, which I know is saying something, especially when the guy is 13-3 and he's done the things he's done. But he's a pretty special talent."

The fastball remains Moore's prime weapon, even with the velocity down slightly to 92.4 mph. But the changeup has become very good, and the curveball has potential — as he executes it better more often — to be quite effective.

"When he starts to improve his fastball command and combines these other two pitches with that," Hickey said, "you're going to see a guy that's top 10, if not higher, in the game."

To manager Joe Maddon, that means consistently in range of 15 to 20 wins a season, pending the requisite luck.

"But the overriding element about him that can permit this to happen is his ability to miss bats on pitches in the strike zone," Maddon said.

The key is consistency, not to have the occasional lapses in concentration or performance that can mar an inning or waste a whole night's good work. Much less the horrid three-game stretch Moore had in June, inflating his ERA from what would have been an AL-best 2.08 to 3.44.

"Matt is doing what you'd hope to see him do in his second full season," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "He's becoming more consistent, controlling game situations better and learning how to limit damage.

"With his stuff, he absolutely has an ace-level ceiling and, as it does with all guys with his raw stuff, it will come down to consistency of execution. His work ethic is extremely good, and I think that is why you are seeing the improvement year over year. Overall, he has made great progress. And the scary part is that he is still only scratching the surface of what he can be."

Besides having the ability to be an ace, a pitcher also has to have the desire, both on and off the field.

Moore has slowly gotten used to the fortune — signing a $14 million, five-year deal that could grow to $40 million over eight — and fame of being a star, saying he will pose for a photo when fans ask but tries to be subtle "because I don't really like to have everybody looking around at what's going on."

He's also becoming more comfortable in the media spotlight, still a bit dry in his answers, certainly compared to the sense of humor and quick wit he shares with teammates — "You don't want to get in an argument with him," pitcher Alex Cobb said — though with good reason: He pauses to ponder what his mom will think of his response. (By the way, Marty Moore said, "She reads them all.")

For the next couple of days in New York, Moore will be one of the game's best. Then he will get back to working his way into a regular role.

"He has some mechanical things, and he's got some control issues that he needs to work on, and some mental aspects of the game which is totally common for a 24-year-old pitcher in his second year in the major leagues," Hickey said.

"But just close your eyes and imagine in two more years and 70 more major-league starts that this guy is going to be 26 years old, and that is really, really scary."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

The Rays completed the reorganization of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli the title of major league field coordinator.In being promoted from first-base coach, Baldelli will implement ideas and information from the staff, while assisting ...
Published: 11/17/17
Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.With that decision official Thursday, now the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through."I’m more focused on working with the community to figure o...
Published: 11/16/17
A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

Here is a message from RHP Alex Cobb after he officially left the Rays Thursday in declining their one-year, $17.4-milllion qualifying offer to seek a bigger and longer pact elsewhere:"Getting to this point in my career is truly bittersweet."Twelve y...
Published: 11/16/17
UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE, 5:01: Cobb did not accept the offer by the deadline, as expected.DEVELOPING: Sometime before today's 5 p.m. deadline, the Rays will get official word that their $17.4-million slight gamble on Alex Cobb paid off.The Rays made the free-agent ri...
Published: 11/16/17
As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

Presuming Alex Cobb declines the Rays’ one-year, $17.4-million qualifying offer by 5 p.m. today, he has pitched his last game for Tampa Bay.Cobb has received preliminary interest from "lots of teams" already, agent Dan Horwits said. The Cubs and Twin...
Published: 11/16/17
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made clear Thursday that identification of a site for a new Rays stadium is merely the first step for area leaders to show they want to keep the team long-term and that there needs to "consistent forward movement" on the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Wednesday that the team is "genuinely excited" about the proposed Ybor City site for a new stadium and more than "cautiously optimistic" the project can be completed. But ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17

Rays journal: No big deals at GM meetings, but possible groundwork laid

By MARC TOPKINLAKE BUENA VISTA — Rays officials left the GM meetings without making any big deals — such as trading Alex Colome or Chris Archer to the Cardinals — but more knowledgeable about the possibilities. "Expectations were to utilize these few...
Published: 11/15/17