Moore leaves questions for Phils' rotation

April 18th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies turned to and Chase Anderson this season to stabilize the back of the rotation.

But where do they turn if Moore continues to struggle like this?

It is a fair question to ask after Moore allowed six runs (five earned) in 2 2/3 innings in Saturday night’s 9-4 loss to the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. Moore has a 9.82 ERA in three starts this season. In 11 innings, he has allowed 17 hits, 13 runs (12 earned), nine walks and four home runs. He has struck out 12.

It is not what the Phillies expected when they signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract in February, or what they saw in Spring Training when he posted a more palatable 4.60 ERA in five Grapefruit League appearances.

A 4.60 ERA would be welcomed from the Phillies’ No. 4 or 5 starter. Moore’s ERA is more than twice that.

“I still think it’s too early to judge,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “As hitters, pitchers can get off to slow starts, too. I think today’s issue was he was up in the zone and behind in the count a lot. Left some changeups up in the zone and that’s a big pitch for him. We need him to locate better.”

Moore walked the first two batters he faced in the first inning only to work out of the jam. He retired eight consecutive batters at one point until he allowed a single to Paul Goldschmidt and walked Nolan Arenado with two outs in the third. Yadier Molina hit a 0-1 changeup down the heart of the plate for a three-run home run. Paul DeJong hit a fastball over the middle for a solo homer to center to make it 4-1.

Phillies head athletic trainer Paul Buchheit visited Moore on the mound in the third. Moore winced on a swing the previous inning, so the Phillies wanted to see if that might be a cause for his struggles. Moore said he felt fine. He stayed in the game but left a short time later after he threw a wild pitch against Cardinals pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim.

“He was done with what he was looking at,” Moore said about Girardi’s decision to pull him in the middle of the at-bat. “It didn’t matter if it was a pitcher or who it was up there. I threw a curveball to the backstop. It wound up being a fine move. … No, I don’t have much of a leg to stand on, so you’ll never hear much about me having something to say about skipper’s decision making. I was pretty poor out there in the third.”

Girardi said Moore will make his next turn through the rotation. He is scheduled to pitch Friday against the Rockies at Coors Field.

Moore is 0-2 with a 14.73 ERA in four career starts there.

“The air is thinner so it’s a part of playing there,” Moore said. “But in general, I think typically if I’m executing my pitches at a high rate, quality over quantity, it doesn’t typically matter where you’re at. I know in the past I haven’t been great at Coors Field, but I’m still just kind of looking to do the same thing.”

If Moore can’t get on track eventually, the Phillies’ most likely option to replace him is right-hander . But Velasquez’s inconsistencies the past several seasons are why the Phillies signed Moore and Anderson, who received a one-year, $4 million contract, in the first place. Velasquez pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday, striking out four and allowing three hits and three walks. In four innings this season, he has struck out nine, but allowed three hits, four runs and eight walks.

Top prospect Spencer Howard could be an option, except Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Howard is on a strict innings limit. If Howard starts at all this season, his workload in those starts will be severely restricted. In other words, the Phillies have no plans to turn Howard loose and have him pitch deep into games in 2021.

“We’re really going to watch those innings closely,” Dombrowski said last month.

Pitchers like left-hander Ranger Suárez and right-handers Adonis Medina and Ramón Rosso are in Triple-A. They could become options at some point. But the Phillies signed Moore because they considered him better than those alternatives. They will continue to give him more opportunities.