After 14 long months, Matt Moore is finally set to rejoin the Rays rotation, and if he is anything like his former self, the Rays have just added a very good arm to their rotation.
Yes, finally, Matt Moore - he of the dramatic 2011 ALDS game one start, he that holds the Rays minor league single season record for strikeouts, he the former All-Star - is set to make his return on Thursday.
Back during the dawn of his major league career, Moore had a fastball in the upper 90's that touched 100, that he could follow up with a devastating curve ball. When Moore returns, his velocity will not be what it once was, but should still be effective if can control it - the same thing that plagued him, and prevented him from being one of the elite pitchers in the league. His fastball will hover in the low to possible mid 90's, but he'll have to rely on his secondary stuff to be effective.
The Rays have had many players undergo the knife during their short, almost 20 year history with the success stories few and in between. Some notables include Victor Zambrano, Dewon Brazelton, and Jake McGee. The last time the Rays had a player who had played at the major league level, then underwent the procedure, and return with the team was Seth McClung 10 years ago back in 2005.
Since then, the Rays have been extremely fortunate in that their frontline pitching had remained healthy. At least, that 's the way it was until Moore went down at the beginning of last season. In May it was revealed that he'd need Tommy John surgery, which would sideline him for the rest of 2014 and at least half of 2015. He was finally set to begin his rehab assignment as the beginning of June and since that point, he has made five starts.
During his rehab, Moore struck out 26.4% of opposing hitters, while walking 8.8% in 21.1 innings pitched. During Moore's rehab, he focused on controlling his secondary stuff, especially while with Durham. Moore held a 2.95 ERA and 4.04 FIP through the experimentation, and now he's primed for a return to the show.
Just as a refresher, during his (so far) brief MLB career, Moore is 29-17 with a 3.53 ERA and a 3.95 FIP to go along with his 22.8 K% and 11.1 BB% over the course of 63 games (61 starts) and 347 innings pitched. He was named an All-Star in 2013, a year that he started by winning his first eight decisions. Last April, Moore's velocity was noticeably slower, a telltale sign that something was wrong. Thus, the Tommy John surgery.
When Moore returns, he'll join a rotation that is quite different, where injuries and strategies are to blame. When he went down last year, the Rays had a rotation that featured David Price, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Eric Bedard. Only one of those pitchers is currently on the active roster.
But, when Odorizzi set to return sometime in the couple of weeks the Rays will likely feature the best rotation in the AL East, and possibly one of best in the AL. Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, the surprisng Erasmo Ramirez, and Nathan Karns who's a solid #5 in the backend of the rotation. Later on, Drew Smyly hopes to journey on through his own rehab in August.
With the days of Summer on us, the division race has been tight all season and the Rays will be making several valuable additions to the team over the coming weeks, starting with Matt Moore Thursday afternoon.