Bush, Moore could impact Rangers' rotation

December 18th, 2017

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Matt Moore said he has never been a member of a rotation with four left-handed starters, but it wouldn't bother him.

"Why not?" Moore said. "If it works once or twice a week, it could work four times a week."

The Rangers acquired Moore from the Giants on Friday for two Minor League pitchers with the idea of putting him in the same rotation as fellow left-handers Cole Hamels and Mike Minor. Southpaw had surgery on his non-throwing elbow Monday, and the club expects his return to the Rangers' rotation in mid-to-late April. Right now, Doug Fister is the only right-hander in the Rangers' rotation.

That could change. The Rangers are also considering moving right-hander Matt Bush into the rotation, something that has him excited. Bush spent his first two seasons in the Major Leagues as a reliever, but the Rangers want to at least give him the opportunity to start in Spring Training.

"It's very exciting," Bush said. "It's just a motivation knowing the type of work I have to put in. I love working hard in the offseason. I work as hard as I can, try to work harder than the next person. To me, the challenge is very motivating."

Bush has pitched a total of 114 innings the past two years since being called to the big leagues on May 13, 2016. He also missed time last year because of a sore right shoulder and a sore knee.

"I feel my very first year -- not knowing what I was capable of, or what level I could compete at -- I felt I did a great job of competing and accomplishing my goal of reaching the Major Leagues and staying there," Bush said. "This is just another challenge for me and an unknown, just like it was an unknown my first year. Not only to prove to myself, but to anybody else who thinks it's not possible."

Bush and Moore have something in common besides the same first name. They are both motivated going into 2018. Bush wants to prove he can be a starter and Moore wants to prove he can be better than what he was this past season. A 17-game winner and All-Star for the Rays in 2013, Moore was 6-15 with a 5.52 ERA in 31 starts and one relief appearance for the Giants this year.

"I know I am not a [5.52 ERA] pitcher," Moore said. "That puts a nasty taste in your mouth all winter. It's something on my mind. That's not who I am. That's not the line we are going to get this year."

Moore was part of a disappointing season overall for the Giants, who went from being a postseason team in 2016 to 98 losses this year.

Moore pitched brilliantly in the postseason in 2016. He started Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Cubs and allowed two runs on two hits in eight innings while striking out 10. He left with a 5-2 lead, but the Cubs scored four in the ninth and eliminated the Giants.

Moore couldn't build on that in 2017. He was 2-7 with a 6.00 ERA after 14 starts and never did recover.

"A lot of it was getting in a hole and trying to do too much trying to get out of it, trying to make up for what happened earlier in the year," Moore said.

His fastball velocity dropped from 93.4 mph in 2016 to 91.9 this past season, while the opponents' batting average increased from .238 to .305. His exit velocity of 88.5 mph was the 13th fastesst of 128 pitchers with at least 300 batted balls allowed. The rate of contact at 95 mph or faster was 40.2 percent, tied for the fifth highest.

Moore may have been getting behind on too many hitters or relying too much on his cut fastball, but he was clearly not as effective as he has been in the past. The Rangers see reasons why he'll be better, and Moore is motivated to make it happen.

He and Bush could have significant impact on the Rangers' rotation in 2018.