Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays rookie Matt Moore disappointed with so-so command

DETROIT — Rays rookie LHP Matt Moore's bottom line didn't look too bad after Tuesday's season debut, holding the mighty Tigers to two runs on four hits while pitching into the seventh on a cold afternoon.

But Moore, 22, had reason to be disappointed, specifically in the lack of fastball command, as he couldn't work deeper into the game because he threw 106 pitches (47 for balls) while walking five. He allowed a run on a wild pitch, bouncing a changeup.

"I didn't throw a lot of quality strikes, especially early in counts," said Moore, pitching in short sleeves despite temperatures in the 40s. "For me, that just makes my day harder having to execute pitches when you're behind in the count. … Command, especially of my fastball, wasn't quite where it needed to be. But it will be there soon enough."

Moore hit 96 mph twice in the first inning, according to mlb.com data, but was in the low 90s with his fastball most of the afternoon, which manager Joe Maddon also noted.

"His velocity wasn't as normally high as it can be," he said. "I love the fact that he kept going after them, kept pounding the strike zone when he could. The five walks, that part put his pitch count in jeopardy."

Moore worked around the dangerous duo of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder (0-for-3, three walks) but had trouble with leadoff man Austin Jackson, whom he had never faced.

In the third and fifth, Moore got two quick outs then walked Jackson, leading to a run and expanding his pitch count. The same happened in the seventh, except Jackson made it worse with a homer on the 24th pitch he saw from Moore on the day.

"Jackson put him behind the eight-ball; he sucked up a lot of pitches on him," Maddon said. "That was probably the turning point in the game, his overall approach to Jackson."

SHIELDS UP: There is a marquee quality to today's matchup of AL Cy Young Award (and MVP) winner Justin Verlander against third-place finisher James Shields. But after a rough outing Friday, Shields said he is more focused on an improved performance, his confidence boosted by a few adjustments.

"I'm looking forward to getting back out there," he said. "Obviously my last outing wasn't the way I wanted it to go; we won the game, that's all that really matters. I had a really good bullpen session with (pitching coach Jim) Hickey. We worked out a few kinks that were going on in the game and now we're ready to go. I'm more concerned about their hitters than what Verlander is doing to our hitters. It's going to be a tough battle."

Shields is pitching today so he stays on a five-day schedule (and faces Boston on Monday) and to give an extra day for RHP Jeff Niemann's blister to heal.

SCOTT DOWN: DH Luke Scott remains sidelined with what he called a mild strain of his left hamstring, and it seems unlikely he would return before the Rays get to Boston this weekend.

"Hopefully in three or four days we might be able to have him back, but I'm not 100 percent sure of that," Maddon said.

Scott said was relieved an MRI exam didn't show anything worse and initially felt better after receiving a cortisone shot Monday, but he woke up stiff Tuesday and wants to be sure it is fully healed. "It all depends how it feels and how I react," he said.

With Scott out, Maddon opted for his best defense, with Reid Brignac at shortstop and Sean Rodriguez at second and Jeff Keppinger (rather than lefty-swinging Stephen Vogt) at DH.

MISCELLANY: Maddon is two wins from becoming the fifth active manager with 500 with his current team, joining Ron Gardenhire (Twins), Jim Leyland (Tigers), Charlie Manuel (Phillies) and Mike Scioscia (Angels). … CF B.J. Upton (lower back soreness) felt good after his first rehab appearance for Class A Charlotte on Monday (going 0-for-2) and is scheduled to play five innings again tonight. … The Rays are 4-11 in road openers, 2-5 under Maddon.

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