Rays deciding on course of action for injured Moore
Second MRI on left-hander's elbow confirms partial tear of ulnar collateral ligament
KANSAS CITY -- Thursday afternoon brought nothing new on the status of Matt Moore's troubled left elbow.
Moore has a partially torn left ulnar collateral ligament, and the Rays are deliberating about how to proceed.
Based on the results of Moore's second MRI of the week -- which took place Wednesday at the offices of orthopedic surgeon James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. -- the questions that need to be answered are obvious: Should Moore have Tommy John surgery? Or, since he does not have a complete tear, should he try rehabbing the injury so he can pitch this season?
Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters after Wednesday afternoon's loss to the Royals that he and the rest of the team's brass were waiting for the final analysis on Moore, noting, "We're not sure."
"And surgery, it has not been definitively said he has to get that done," Maddon said. "I don't think [the UCL is] fully torn, from what I understand. I don't know that. Based on the test [Wednesday] with the dye, I'm sure it would be more conclusive."
Tommy John surgery would mean that Moore is done for the season, a possibility he addressed Tuesday night when he told reporters that the prospect of surgery or rehabbing after the surgery concerned him as much as the disappointment he would face.
"It's the preparation that went into this season," Moore said. "For the guys in the locker room and everybody that goes into this particular organization, a lot of high hopes and expectations that we prepared for this season. And I very much still want to be a part of it, and I still have not ruled out any part of that."
Moore started for Tampa Bay against Kansas City on Monday night, and he seemed to be finding a groove when he started the fifth inning. With one out, he grimaced after throwing a changeup to Nori Aoki that made the count 2-2. Moore then wiggled his left arm in obvious discomfort before a mound conference that included Maddon and assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker was convened. Moore left the game shortly thereafter.
On Tuesday, Moore's MRI did not paint a clear enough picture of his injury to make a decision on how to proceed. Later that day, the Rays placed Moore on the 15-day disabled list and scheduled his visit to Pensacola. In deference to the first MRI he had at the University of Kansas Medical Center, contrast dye was injected into his elbow for the second MRI. The dye allows for better imaging, which revealed the tear.
If Moore is able to avoid surgery and continue pitching this season, a major concern would be throwing the changeup, a pitch he needs, but one that irritates his elbow when he throws it.
Maddon was asked on Wednesday if Moore could pitch without his changeup.
"I think he's much more effective with it," Maddon said. "He'd have to put a premium on throwing a fastball strike if he was unable to throw his changeup in a game, I believe. … That would be kind of difficult."
Moore earned American League All-Star honors last season, his second full season in the Major Leagues, when he went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts. Included in Moore's 2013 season was a prolonged stint on the disabled list due to an elbow problem, a problem also encountered after throwing a changeup.
Moore, who is 0-2 with a 2.79 ERA in two starts in 2014, would have been lined up to take his next turn in the rotation on Sunday. Maddon said he will announce Moore's replacement on Friday in Cincinnati prior to the team opening a three-game series against the Reds.
Left-handers Cesar Ramos and Erik Bedard are the favorites to be picked for the slot.
"Part of [the decision] is overall the way Spring Training played out and the conversations we had with both guys," Maddon said. "We really try to adhere to what we tell our players. And I think it's really important, the integrity of our conversations, so we have to try to recreate everything that had been said in all fairness to all the players. ... Just still considering it, but by the time we get to Cincinnati, we'll know. ... It's primarily a philosophical discussion."
Ramos and Bedard both were in contention for the fifth-starter spot that Jake Odorizzi claimed during Spring Training. Ramos went to the bullpen, and Bedard is now at Triple-A Durham.
Maddon allowed that neither pitcher is properly stretched to pitch deep into the game.
"There would have to be limitations on either one," Maddon said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.