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Rays' Matt Moore gets out of jam in spring debut

PORT CHARLOTTE — LHP Matt Moore's spring didn't get off to very good start, as he loaded the bases during a 26-pitch first inning, and had to take evasive action on two balls hit back at him.

But he got out of that jam and got better from there, and by the end of the afternoon, a 6-1 win over the Phillies, both he and manager Joe Maddon were encouraged.

"Overall I'm in a good place after the first day," Moore said.

A return to a previous offseason conditioning program was expected to restore velocity to his fastball, though it was up only slightly Monday, Maddon saying they had him at 93 mph, maybe 94 once, a promising sign.

"I looked up a couple times (at the board)," Moore said. "It wasn't like 97-98 or anything, but my arm feels good right now, and I think that the way (the ball is) coming out, we'll see where we're at in a couple weeks."

Maddon also noted the sharpness of Moore's curveball, and improvement in his delivery time out of the stretch.

ZO BETTER: 2B Ben Zobrist made his spring debut with no issues from his previously sore and tight back that forced him to miss the first week of workouts, going 0-for-2 in playing three innings.

"I felt great," Zobrist said. "Felt great in the field, felt great at the plate. ... So a positive step."

Zobrist will play only home games this week, minimizing strain from long rides.

FIRST AT FIRST: INF Logan Forsythe was acquired from the Padres for his ability to play the infield and outfield, and the Rays want to see if he can handle first base as well, though Sean Rodriguez is the primary backup.

Forsythe started there Monday, saying he had some prior experience but never playing in a pro game, his primary concern being in the right spot.

After handling a dozen chances between plays and pickoff throws, Forsythe said it was "a good day" overall, though he did get caught coming off the bag early on what would have been a dazzling play by Zobrist.

"He needs a little work over there," Maddon said. "It's more of a road map situation. He knows how to catch a ground ball."

MISSING MAN: RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo is working out regularly while continuing to wait anxiously in the Dominican Republic for his visa to be approved so he can report to camp, agent Andy Mota said.

Oviedo requires a waiver, a higher level of approval from U.S. government officials, stemming from past identity fraud issues, and had a consulate interview Feb. 6.

"It's an unpredictable and very frustrating waiting process," Mota said, with no set timetable or way to track progress. "Could take a week or could take a month. No fun. ... So there's no option other than waiting."

Mota did say Oviedo, who is coming off elbow surgery and expected to have a spot in the bullpen, has been throwing daily on a regular program. "There won't be any hiccups for him when he arrives," Mota said. "He will hit the ground running."

GAME DETAILS: The Rays rallied for five runs in the seventh, non-roster OF Justin Christian making a nice slide to score on a fielder's choice, then non-roster INFs Ray Olmedo and Cole Figueroa delivering two-run hits. ... RHP Merrill Kelly got the win for two solid innings of relief. ... RHP Roberto Hernandez, who struggled last season with the Rays, was sharp against them, allowing only a single in three strong innings.

MISCELLANY: OF David DeJesus was among seven players named to the advisory board for the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which advocates against youth performance-enhancing drug use. ... LHP Cesar Ramos will now start Wednesday, though previously scheduled LHP Erik Bedard will still pitch. ... Monday's morning drills included one of Maddon's favorites, the five-man infield alignment.

Manager Joe Maddon noted the sharpness of Matt Moore's curveball, and improvement in his delivery time out of the stretch.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Manager Joe Maddon noted the sharpness of Matt Moore's curveball, and improvement in his delivery time out of the stretch.

Rays' Matt Moore gets out of jam in spring debut 03/03/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 3, 2014 6:44pm]
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