Rays' Matt Moore has up-and-down return

Matt Moore makes his season debut after a 14-month recovery from Tommy John surgery. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times] 
Matt Moore makes his season debut after a 14-month recovery from Tommy John surgery. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times] 
Published July 3, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — After a 14-month recovery from Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm, all that stood between LHP Matt Moore and a big-league mound was a good night's sleep.

"I got to sleep at one point, at some point, but it did take a little bit longer than I was hoping," Moore said.

Moore's start was up and down Thursday. He held Cleveland hitless through the first three innings, then gave up six hits and four runs in his final 12/3 innings.

"I felt good to go out there and compete but at the same time it doesn't matter what I've been doing the last 14 months, we're still trying to win this ball game and (I've) got to be better than that in the fifth inning right there," Moore said.

He also had control issues, with two walks and three wild pitches in 42/3 innings. For his first time working with C Rene Rivera, however, Moore and manager Kevin Cash were pleased.

"There's some really bright spots looking at him today," Cash said. "There's some excitement for how he rolled through those first two, three innings. That was nice to see."

LONEY TO RETURN: The Rays reinstated 1B James Loney (broken left middle finger) from the disabled list after the game, providing a middle-of-the-order boost to a lineup searching for offense.

"He's going to help. There's no doubt about it," Cash said. "We're excited to have him back."

Loney was batting .275 in 30 games before injuring himself on a headfirst slide into third on May 24. To make room for Loney, RHP Preston Guilmet was optioned to Triple-A Durham.

'STRANGE' START FOR SOUZA: The only word RF Steven Souza Jr. could use to describe the first half of his season was "strange."

His 14 home runs put him six clear of his nearest Rays competitor and his 31 RBIs rank third on the team. At one point, Souza's name was being mentioned in the conversation for American League rookie of the year.

However, Souza's recent run has been remarkably lean. He has one hit in his past 39 at-bats and has been held hitless in his past nine games, including a strikeout in a pinch-hit appearance Thursday.

"This is the best level in the world for baseball, so if you want to have any chance of consistency success, you have to show up as a consistent player and a consistent person," Souza said. "I've struggled to do that, and I'm going to work to be better in the back half of the year."

JENNINGS ITCHING TO RETURN: OF Desmond Jennings said his injured left knee is pain-free for the first time since he was sidelined April 25 and that he's continuing his rehab work with the goal of starting a rehab assignment by August.

"It's a good feeling," Jennings said in his first comments since having arthroscopic surgery last month. "I'm anxious to start playing some baseball."

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MORE MEDICAL: Cash said RHP Jake Odorizzi (left oblique strain) was outstanding in Wednesday's rehab start for Class A Port Charlotte. Odorizzi has hoped to return to the Rays rotation next week, although it hasn't yet been decided whether he'll require a second rehab start.

ABOUT WEDNESDAY NIGHT: OF Joey Butler became the second player in club history to break up a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth when he spoiled Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco's run at history Wednesday. 3B Evan Longoria broke up a no-hit bid by Blue Jays RHP Brandon Morrow on Aug. 8, 2010.