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Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Moore has third straight poor start

ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Matt Moore says the problem isn't fatigue or physical ailment.

Moore believes his mechanics are in line with what he has done all year and "that confidence and that drive" were there in Saturday's 11-5 win over the Blue Jays.

But Moore has clearly not seemed right lately, registering a career low in innings pitched in each of his past three starts, including 22/3 Saturday.

After the lefty allowed two runs and three hits in 50 pitches, manager Joe Maddon had seen enough to give the quick hook to Moore, who understood considering the Rays are fighting for a playoff spot.

"He just didn't have it," Maddon said. "Earlier in the season, you can be a little more patient, but you can't be as patient right now, and I just did not see him fixing himself (Saturday).

"He just didn't look comfortable to me. I didn't see the ball out of the hand right, the variance in velocity went anywhere from 90-95 — that's not normal. He's going to be great. But we cannot allow that to happen right now."

As much as Maddon remains confident in Moore, he plans to talk with the 23-year-old rookie, whose struggles have raised the question of what the Rays can get out of him down the stretch.

Maddon doesn't believe Moore, who has thrown 173 innings, is out of gas. But he noted that Moore was "fine up until" ESPN analyst John Kruk alleged he was tipping his pitches in a Sept. 5 start against the Yankees. Moore, who has made adjustments since, said that is not an issue at all.

"It's a little frustrating," Moore said. "Just in the sense that I prepared for that game and that start, and didn't quite get to my pitch limit."

SWITCH IT UP: Though the Rays didn't make it official until Friday night, they had planned all along to alter the rotation to push today's originally scheduled starter, RHP Alex Cobb, back to Wednesday.

Tampa Bay wanted to give Cobb, who has thrown a career-high 1652/3 innings (including Triple A), a couple of extra days and start RHP Jeremy Hellickson today on regular rest.

Both pitchers were told of the new schedule after their last start, giving them adequate time to prepare. Cobb says he physically feels great but supported the decision, believing it'll extend his season. But he acknowledged going eight or more days between starts can be an adjustment; he's 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in the three starts he has done so this season.

PITCHING IN: Rays pitchers shared hugs and high-fives in a group huddle after setting the American League single-season strikeout record Friday (1,275). And upon entering the clubhouse Saturday, each pitcher received a cased commemorative baseball with his name, the record and date/game it was set written on it, thanks to home clubhouse/equipment manager Chris Westmoreland, who also gave one to pitching coach Jim Hickey, bullpen coach Stan Boroski and bullpen catcher Scott Cursi. "That was really cool," Cobb said.

IN THE FULD: OF Sam Fuld ran for the first time since suffering a moderate right hamstring strain in New York on Sept. 16, saying though he didn't push it (going about 55-60 percent), he felt good. "Everything went smoothly," he said. He planned to hit in the batting cage and expects to build up his running this week in hopes of returning before the end of the season.

MISCELLANY: INF Elliot Johnson and C Chris Gimenez will sign autographs this afternoon from 12:15-12:45 p.m. along the rightfield line. … The Rays' next road trip to Boston and Chicago will have a "wigged out" theme. … With their 82nd win, the Rays clinched their fifth consecutive winning season.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Moore has third straight poor start 09/22/12 [Last modified: Sunday, September 23, 2012 12:23am]

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