Lakeland, Fla. – As if Matt Moore doesn’t have enough on his plate this spring, what with being on a new team, learning a new set of teammates, working with a new pitching coach and trying to win a spot in the Tigers’ rotation.
On top of that, his wife Anna was expecting to deliver their first baby within hours.
“Yeah, new team, new addition to the family – we’re excited,” Moore said.
Moore has been wearing out the I-4/I-275 freeway route between Lakeland and Tampa the last couple of days. He left the optional workout on Monday as Anna started having contractions. He stayed with her all day Tuesday, but the baby, a boy, wasn’t quite ready to make his debut.
Moore was back in the clubhouse Wednesday morning for the first official workout day for pitchers and catchers, which was forced indoors because of a steady rain shower.
“I’m keeping my phone by me, but I’ve been having a hard time focusing the last couple of days,” he said. “I’m planning on taking a day or so when the baby comes, so I figured I can get the first day in and all that stuff. I was with her all day yesterday, so she was good for the morning.”
Moore threw an indoor bullpen session – his first in front of pitching coach Rick Anderson – and then scooted back to Tampa, confident he wouldn’t miss the birth.
“I’m going to be there,” he said. “I don’t imagine she’s going to have it in the elevator. It’s about a half-hour drive (minus traffic). I will be there before lunch, and even before that if she needs me.”
The Tigers signed Moore, a 29-year-old left-hander, this offseason for one year and $2.5 million. He can earn another $1 million if he makes 32 starts. But the contract and the incentive are all the Tigers have given him. He will have to earn the rest.
As it stands entering camp, Moore, Daniel Norris, Spencer Turnbull and Ryan Carpenter are competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. That presumes Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Matthew Boyd and Tyson Ross are healthy and productive.
“I’ve thrown four or five bullpens and I feel like I am in a good spot,” Moore said. “It’s just getting back into a starter’s role. It’s not ever just one thing. This is just a normal spring training for me, getting ready as a starter.
“You kind of just tweak things as they come up.”
Moore has dealt with his share of tweaking and scuffling since his All-Star season in 2013. His last solid season was 2016 (13-12, 4.08 ERA in 198 innings). He struggled mightily with the Giants in 2017 and last season with Rangers was sent to the bullpen after making 12 starts.
Although he ended up posting career-worst numbers – 6.79 ERA, 1.67 WHIP – he seemed to right the ship a bit toward the end of the season. He had a 0.94 WHIP over his last 11 innings.
“One of the things I did, I simplified my delivery,” he said during a teleconference in December. “Being in the bullpen taught me you don’t have to be your best or your sharpest every time out, you just have to get outs. You just have to be ready to go. I think I appreciated the adrenaline you get pitching out of the bullpen.
"It taught me that you can make something good out of not having good stuff.”
The Tigers scouts and analysts believe his three-pitch repertoire – four-seam fastball (93 mph), an overhead, knuckle-curve ball and a change-up – can still be effective. They were also encouraged that he has mothballed his cutter, which he admits got him into trouble.
“For me, the less I throw my cutter the higher the spin rate is on my four-seam fastball,” Moore said. “The more I throw my cutter, the less the spin rate is on my four-seam. It’s on me to back off the cutter at times because it has adversely affected my four-seam.
“And the four-seam has to be my bread and butter for the overhead breaking ball to be effective. I have to have that carry on my fastball.”
Anderson has been champing at the bit to work with Moore.
“I am anxious to sit down with him and just talk to him,” Anderson said on Tuesday. “About the things we’re trying to do here and where we are going. The one thing with him, and with Tyson Ross, you’ve got make-up (toughness) through the roof. Both of them are make-up guys. They work hard.
“And when you’ve got that, you’ve got something to work with.”
Most likely, fingers-crossed, next time Moore is back in the clubhouse at Marchant Stadium, he’ll be passing out cigars.