PORT CHARLOTTE — Matt Moore makes his spring debut with an unusual distinction.
He has a regular-season win and a playoffs victory on his resume, but today in Sarasota will be the first time he'll pitch in a big-league spring training game.
"When you put it like that," Moore acknowledged, "it does sound a little funny."
Moore made his rapid rise to the majors last season without the benefit of attending major-league camp. And his first appearance was delayed until today in Sarasota due to a mild abdominal strain that kept him off the mound for eight days.
"It's exciting," he said.
Moore will work an inning or two in relief of David Price, who is scheduled for four as he overcame his towel-induced stiff neck to stay on schedule.
The Rays are confident that Moore, 22, can make up the lost time and be ready to start the season on time. He said all he will be focused on today is getting on the mound. "To get out there and to get into the games and start to contribute and get ready for the season is something I've been looking forward to since I've been coming back from this little hiccup," he said.
FIRST CUTS: In addition to optioning starting pitching prospects Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and Alex Torres to the minors, the Rays reassigned 1B Juan Miranda, RHP Ricky Orta (who has had a sore shoulder) and Cs Nevin Ashley and Mark Thomas, reducing the spring roster to 52.
SHIELDS UP: Opening day starter RHP James Shields worked four innings in Monday's 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Twins, throwing 49 pitches of primary fastballs and changeups (and no curveballs) in his second spring outing.
"Got some good work in out there," Shields said. "I'm definitely progressing the way I want to progress."
Manager Joe Maddon said he thought Shields "was very sharp and looked very comfortable."
FARNSWORTH, TOO: RHP Kyle Farnsworth worked an eventful inning in his spring debut, allowing two hits, including a comebacker he missed then followed with an ungraceful dive and throwing error, a sequence he summed up as "awful."
Overall he was pleased with his pitching, not quite cutting loose as his fastball topped out at about 93-94 mph. "Just trying to get the first one underneath your belt and throw strikes," he said.
The Rays want to limit him to about eight appearances, which is why he didn't pitch until Monday. "You only have so many bullets and spring training's long enough," he said.
GAME DETAILS: The Rays (3-7-1) led 1-0 on Desmond Jennings' third-inning RBI single, but the Twins tied it on Farnsworth's fifth-inning throwing error and went ahead when Luke Hughes homered off prospect Albert Suarez in the 10th. … C Jose Lobaton had a double but also a throwing error. … SS Elliot Johnson made an impressive play. … INF Jeff Keppinger had a single to hike his average to .400, Maddon saying "he has had nothing but good at-bats."
MISCELLANY: INF Sean Rodriguez's sprained left index finger improved enough for him to take batting practice and he is likely to play today. … The Rays took a look at their likely alignment against lefty starters, with Keppinger at second base and Ben Zobrist moving to rightfield.