Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Matt Moore encouraged after throwing to hitters

PORT CHARLOTTE — LHP Matt Moore worked hard this winter in returning to his previous regimen in an effort to improve his strength, conditioning and body stability coming into camp.

And after throwing to hitters for the first time Sunday, he said the difference from how he felt at the start of last spring was obvious.

"Where I was last year on the mound in that first live batting practice, I was a lot more encouraged walking off the hill (Sunday)," he said. "The hitters' feedback, where the ball was winding up and where my effort level is, I think all of those things are ahead of where we were 12 months ago."

The bottom line result will be whether he regains a couple of miles per hour on his fastball, which Moore acknowledged can't truly be measured until he is in regular-season form.

But manager Joe Maddon also said Sunday's performance was a good start.

"There was definitely a lot of hop on the ball," he said. "I'd say for the first day that I saw him pitch live to hitters, his velocity looked pretty impressive. I don't know what it was, but there was some really good jump on the ball, some really good break (on his curveball)."

A lack of velocity and overall sharpness were issues last spring, which Moore — who did go on to win 17 games and make the American League All-Star team — now says was a result of straying from his past workout program.

"That's pretty much the only thing, the only reason I can make of it," Moore said. "There wasn't an injury, there wasn't anything structurally that was keeping me from throwing what I had thrown in the past and being where I was. …

"It definitely feels like things are tied together a little bit better right now."

ARCHED UP: RHP Chris Archer also had a solid session, excited by what he figures is his first spring where he can focus on refining his craft rather than trying to impress to win a job.

"This year I don't feel like I have to go out there and put up a 0.00 ERA (as he did last spring)," he said. "There's more to it this year in spring training. This is the first year I ever had that, because even in the minor leagues I felt like I had to prove myself to make the single-A team, the high-A team, Double-A team, Triple-A team. And last year I was trying to prove myself to make the major-league team.

"Well, I think my 23 starts last year as a whole, that was like proof that I was capable of being successful at the major-league level. And now the next four weeks of games, I can fine-tune everything and hopefully step out ahead of where I finished the season last year."

'ZO BETTER: 2B Ben Zobrist remained limited to light activities, though saying his tight and sore back continues to improve. He is now hoping to get on the field at least for some drills Tuesday.

TV: Two spring games will be shown live by MLB Network: March 7 vs. the Blue Jays, 10 vs. the Red Sox. Three others will be on delay: March 9 vs. the Yankees, 19 vs. the Orioles, 23 vs. the Red Sox. … Sun Sports is covering three live: March 16 and 25 vs. the Red Sox, 26 vs. Baltimore.

MISCELLANY: INF Wilson Betemit and RHPs Juan Carlos Oviedo and Juan Sandoval remained absent due to visa delays in the Dominican Republic. … Maddon said he has been impressed with SS Hak-Ju Lee, who is coming back from left knee surgery. … Executive VP Andrew Friedman will be a guest on MLB Network's Hot Stove show at 9:45 a.m. today. … Saturday's FanFest raised more than $100,000 for charity, proceeds to the Rays Baseball Foundation, ALS Association, Maddon's Thanksmas program, and Pet Pal. … Archer will speak Tuesday at The Academy, an alternative school in Port Charlotte for students who otherwise would not finish high school.

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