Tampa Bay Rays southpaw Matt Moore has been one of the major’s most dominant pitchers so far along with Red Sox righty Clay Buchholz and Mets right-hander Matt Harvey.
The 23-year-old entered yesterday having won each of his first four starts and recording an impressive 1.04 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 29 strikeouts over 26.0 innings.
After having a tough first half (4.42 ERA) in 2012, he found his groove after the All-Star Break, recording a 3.01 ERA during his final 14 starts.
He broke onto the scene late in 2011, and made two appearances, one start, in the ALDS against Texas, surrendering just one run and three in 10.0 innings.
He entered the 2012 season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball behind only Bryce Harper. Baseball America also ranked his fastball, curveball and control the best of any pitcher in the Rays organization.
Moore recently went one-on-one with Eagle-Tribune baseball writer Christopher Smith, who writes the Smitty on Baseball blog that can be found on the paper’s website.
Smitty: How would you describe yourself as a pitcher?
Moore: This year, my velocity on the radar guns is not maybe quite where it has been in the past. I pitch with my four-seam fastball a lot. And I throw basically a 12-to-6 curveball and change-up. So very simple pitches. My two-seamer is the newest pitch for me right now. I’m sure there’s another pitch to come.
Smitty: When did you start throwing the two-seamer?
Moore: It’s just something that (Tampa pitching coach Jim) Hickey and I just kind of monkeyed with last year, something for me to throw down the middle of the plate basically 0-0. With 92, 94 (mph), if I can get that thing just to bite a little bit, that’s going to be enough to keep them out of the barrel. That’s a good pitch for me to start out an at-bat.
Smitty: How do you prepare for an upcoming lineup like the Red Sox or Yankees?
Moore: For right now, a lot of what I try to take care of is myself. I want to make sure that my body is more prepared in that I’ve had enough and the right type of calories that day that it’s going to last me. It’s not about the hot and cold zones, and what pitches they don’t hit. At this point of my career, I’m really focused on my game.
I try to stay away from my own video. I will watch players’ videos on how they react to lefty’s change-ups or lefty’s curveballs — things like that.
Smitty: I hear you do everything left-handed but play golf.
Moore: I do golf a lot in the offseason. Probably play at least once a week. My dad plays right-handed so when we were little kids those were the first golf clubs we ever took a look at. So for my brother and I, to start playing golf, it was very natural for us to pick up the only set we had and those were righties. We never really looked back from there.
Smitty: Did you ever try to hit from the right side?
Moore: It’s something to this day that I still can’t get comfortable with. My left arm wants to be too dominant with it. Golf is a little bit more finesse. I think in baseball I kind of want to swing the bat a little harder than golf.
Smitty: Who do you enjoy watching pitch?
Moore: I like watching (Clayton) Kershaw. I watched his whole Opening Day game. I watched him hit a home run in the eighth inning. Seeing what that guy does, seeing the pitcher he was three or four years ago, he’s not the pitcher he is right now. He was not working into the eighth, ninth inning and not nearly as consistent as he is right now. It’s something I definitely would like to follow. It’s a lot like what David (Price) was going for us last year and the last couple of years.
Smitty: As for Price, it must be great having a lefty Cy Young winner to help you.
Moore: That goes without saying. I’m watching him whatever he’s doing, if he’s working out, if he’s eating breakfast. Very, very fortunate to have that type of caliber player in our locker room. Seeing the tenacity and the grit in his face, that’s something we’re all trying to learn and pick up from him — the fact that he doesn’t accept anything other than what he knows he’s capable of.
Smitty: Evaluate your 2012 season.
Moore: When I’m 1-5 that means I wasn’t keeping us in ballgames. Throughout the course of the season, I feel like I made some adjustments that at least kept me in the game a little bit later and helped my pitch count each inning.
End result, not disappointed but at the same time, I would have liked to have been able to work out of a couple more situations and not get beat. There’s a couple of bad tastes left in your mouth after a season like that because it wasn’t a continuation of the previous season in how I was feeling. It just felt like there were a little bit more ups and downs than in the past.