Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Moore continues to impress in spring debut

FORT MYERS — LHP Matt Moore's first appearance of the spring did not start well Monday, a misplaced curveball launched for a leadoff home run by Boston's Mookie Betts.

But things got better from there, as Moore retired the next six batters he faced in the Rays' eventual 3-2 10-inning win. And that made it another good day overall for the key starter, who came back last season from Tommy John elbow surgery and finished strong.

"I thought he was outstanding," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Really good. It was nice to see. Very, very clean with everything. Threw a bunch of strikes."

Moore, who stuck with fastballs and curves in throwing 17 of his 23 pitches for strikes, said he felt a little too amped given it was his first game, but he has been pleased with his work overall this spring.

"It feels great," he said. "I think that's probably the biggest reason for the smile on my face most of the time when I come through the doors these days. Being away from the game for that long and struggling and getting back to where I want to be at the end of last season, the appreciation is a lot bigger and a lot more on my end of the game. I had a lot of fun out there."

KID GAMES: RHP Taylor Guerrieri, a 23-year-old top prospect, had an impressive two-inning outing, working a fourth inning in which he faced Boston's biggest names. He gave up an RBI single to retiring star David Ortiz..

"It was pretty cool, to say the least, to face a future Hall of Famer in Big Papi," Guerrieri said. "It's something that I'll never forget. And the fact that he got a hit off me — it kind of kills me to say this — it almost makes it better."

Cash was impressed with how Guerrieri, in his first big-league camp, handled himself as he got Dustin Pedroia to fly out, gave up singles to Xander Bogaerts and Ortiz then came back to strike out Hanley Ramirez and get Pablo Sandoval to ground out.

"I think (pitching coach Jim Hickey) challenged him a little bit, stuck him out there against some of their big guys, and he responded really well," Cash said. "It was very impressive, the poise. They did not take him out of the strike zone. He just kind of did his thing. The stuff that he's featuring obviously plays very well."

JONNY ON THE SPOT: LHP Jonny Venters, trying to come back from a third Tommy John surgery, throws his first bullpen session of the spring today in Port Charlotte.

Venters, 31, threw off the mound a few times last fall and is eager to get back at it after an offseason of rest, aiming to progress to rehab games within six weeks and join the Rays this summer. "Everything has been feeling good," the former Braves All-Star said. "I'm excited."

Among the three other Tommy John rehabs: RHP Neil Wagner, on a similar schedule to Venters, is also slated for his first bullpen session today; RHP Alex Cobb is on a planned two-week break from throwing with hopes to start bullpen sessions in late March; and RHP Chase Whitley starts his break next week and will be on a similar schedule to Cobb.

GAME DETAILS: Down 1-0 on Betts' homer, the Rays (3-3) took a 2-1 lead in a two-hit, two-error fourth, then after Boston tied it won it in the 10th. … Nonroster INF Juniel Querecuto knocked in the decisive run after INF Nick Franklin led off with a walk. … After nonroster RHP Ryan Garton, the Mitchell High product, walked four (and got a double play), nonroster RHP Mark Sappington came in to save it, using the cutter he learned last year to get a ground ball from Allen Craig. … 2B Logan Forsythe had two hits. … The Rays played their first error-free game.

MISCELLANY: OF Steven Souza Jr., sidelined since Feb. 21 by an intercostal strain, will accompany the team to Lakeland to take batting practice and is slated to debut Thursday or Friday.

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