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Rays turn to rookie Matt Moore for ALDS Game 1 start

Sep 29, 2011, 9:26 PM EDT

matt moore reuters Reuters

Rays manager Joe Maddon is going all-in.

According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, the bespectacled skipper announced late Thursday evening that rookie left-hander Matt Moore will take the mound Friday in Texas for Game 1 of the Rays’ ALDS matchup with the Rangers.

James Shields probably would have been Maddon’s preferred option for Friday’s series opener, but the righty hurled 8 2/3 tough innings Monday against New York and the Rays want to keep him on normal rest. Shields will pitch Game 2 on Saturday night.

Moore, widely regarded as baseball’s top pitching prospect, has posted a 2.89 ERA and 15/3 K/BB ratio in 9 1/3 innings since earning a promotion to the major leagues just two weeks ago. The 22-year-old lefty fanned 11 Yankees hitters over five scoreless innings last week during the first start of his major league career.

It’ll be a mighty test for Moore — one that spawned real mental issues for a southpaw with similar hype back in the 2000 NLDS — but Maddon is simply putting his best foot forward. He’s trusting the talent. And we can’t wait to see how the youngster responds under the bright lights of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

  1. klmccook - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:44 PM

    It’s the Rays way. Let’s go Rays.

  2. proudlycanadian - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:45 PM

    Why not start the kid. He is probably beter than Tampa Bay’s other options and Texas has not faced him so he has the advatage.

    • proudlycanadian - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:53 PM

      edit: “better”— I prefer him over Niemann or Davis.

      • indaburg - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:40 PM

        I agree. Niemann and Davis have both been awful against the Rangers this year. The Rays right now are a team with really no pressure. Nobody expected them to make it this far and hardly anyone expects them to get past the Rangers. Why not take some chances?

  3. Jeremiah Graves - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    I love this!!

  4. btwicey - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:59 PM

    If he pulls this off it just makes maddon that much better in my eyes, he’s got balls that’s for sure

  5. phillyphever - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:05 PM

    That’s ballsy.

  6. pisano - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    That’s like throwing the kid to the wolves. That is one hell of a right handed line-up. This one could really backfire on Maddon, he’ll either be a genius or a horses ass, and with that line-up I’m picking the latter.

    • buddaley - Sep 29, 2011 at 11:24 PM

      I’m not sure whether you are remarking on how Maddon will be perceived (in the popular media) if Moore does badly or on what a legitimate judgment would be. If the former, you are probably right, but if the latter, I think you are not really assessing the situation.

      The top 3 choices are unavailable unless you want to start someone on short rest. That might be more risky than starting a rookie, especially as Shields has already surpassed last year’s inning total by 46.

      That leaves Niemann and Davis, neither of whom is reliable. Niemann was recently dinged up and looked bad in his only start since while Davis has been very erratic, alternating solid starts with disasters. Why are they definitely better choices than Moore?

      Against Texas, any pitcher might look bad. But if Moore flops, it will not mean Maddon was wrong to select him just as it will not mean Maddon is a genius if he does well. It is simply a matter of choosing among alternatives, none of which are clearly best, any of which is defensible.

      • pisano - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:18 AM

        buddaley….I just feel it’s too big a start for such a young inexperienced pitcher. Too much, too soon. The Rangers are brutal at the plate and their at full power now. You can’t pitch around anyone in that line-up. We’ll soon find out about Mr. Moore.

  7. qcubed3 - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    If Joe Maddon told me I was going to poop gold tomorrow, I would believe him. He’s a freaking wizard, man. Love that guy!

  8. dailyrev - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    So far, the stars perfectly align. Triple plays, miracle comebacks, game tying and winning HRs, omens upon omens. If this team just wins the pennant, Midas will have to step aside, and we will forever talk about the “Maddon touch.”

  9. raysfan1 - Sep 29, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    With all due “respect” to one of the commenters above, Maddon’s proved himself one of the best (if not the very best) managers in MLB. If anyone can keep the kid from freaking out and instead seeing it as another opportunity/challenge, it’s Maddon. Sure, it’s a gamble, but it’s one that lines the rotation back up as normal. The only real issue is whether the Rays’ can generate enough offense.

  10. Ick McWang - Sep 29, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    Joe is working off a small sample size, but Moore stunk up the joint as a reliever, but given a spot start on normal rest he dominated the Yanks. I’m sure listing Shields as day 1 starter was a ploy all along so Moore could fly under the lights and not be film-studied all week by the Rangers.

    Rays top 3 rotation in a year or two:

    I want to list Shields badly but I’m pretty sure he’s gone after this year, going by past Rays deals. And I bet they regret extending Wade Davis, he’s been mediocre at best since he signed the extension

  11. pisano - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:24 AM

    Check ….” their at full power”, I meant they’re at full power.

  12. baseballisboring - Sep 30, 2011 at 2:56 AM

    IMO this is both incredibly ballsy, and the right move. Gonna be fun.

  13. bobdira - Sep 30, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    I’ll suspend my habit of writing Maddon-ing for this post in hopes that I’m giving Joe some good Karma. Looking at his options Moore makes the most sense. Shields? Not enough rest after his workhorse year. Same for Helly and obviously Price.

    So You’re left with Niemann, who has a balky back and worse, is too up and down. He could end the game in the first couple innings if we need five runs off Wilson.

    Davis is a wild card here. He pitched well enough last year to get the Rays a win in Arlington, but again up and down and the challenge again is needing too many runs off of Wilson.

    So……. Moore. Unknown but with high upside and a short track record of success as a starting pitcher in the bigs. You’d like to have a decision made without backing into it, but it is what it is. And it’s the best choice among options available.

  14. cshearing - Sep 30, 2011 at 8:12 AM

    Love the move. Throwing the kid to the wolves? If you want to be a Major League player you have to be unafraid of wolves.

    • artisan3m - Sep 30, 2011 at 9:26 AM

      I feel like I’m trespassing here but as a Ranger fan I can see a lot of merit in starting the kid. First, he’s proven he has the tools. Secondly, the Rangers don’t have a book on him as they have never faced him. And third, the Rangers only have two conditions ~ red hot or stone cold. Hamilton will probably not be a factor since it is a day game and Josh doesn’t do well in sunshine. It ought to be a great series between two teams with considerable talent and smart managers.

  15. wlschneider09 - Sep 30, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    I like it too. If he has problems early, it’s not like you can’t go to Niemann at that point. Take a chance, rookies have flourished under these lights before. I think that’s where Tim Wakefield originated oh soooo many years ago.

  16. urteamsux52 - Sep 30, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    ballsy was johnson batting in bottom of the 9th with two outs. this is crazy but davis and jeff been smack by the rangers this year lets see what he’s got he pulls this off we really got a shot crazy year LETS GO RAYS

  17. jjgreatday - Sep 30, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    We should throw in J.P. Howell as the starter and Sonnanstine as the closer. Don Zimmer can catch better than Shoppach. I hope we do better this year. Last year was embarrasing. I think Matt Moore should get the chance. We should have done the same with Hellickson last year. I think it’s destiny people!!! Go Rays!! And for the love of God, go to the game and let’s get that place filled!!!! The team needs us there. You will be able to purchase tix at Ferg’s with no problem at all. Trust me. We need to show up in force this year! Go Rays Go Rays Go Rays!!!!

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