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Moore relishes chance to start again in Detroit

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The last thing Matt Moore wanted to do in his first go-around as a free agent was linger on the market into Spring Training, especially with his wife expecting their first child in mid-February. Packing up and heading to a camp around her due date was not appealing to him.

"It's a Spring Training baby, and we couldn't be happier," Moore said on Wednesday.

DETROIT -- The last thing Matt Moore wanted to do in his first go-around as a free agent was linger on the market into Spring Training, especially with his wife expecting their first child in mid-February. Packing up and heading to a camp around her due date was not appealing to him.

"It's a Spring Training baby, and we couldn't be happier," Moore said on Wednesday.

But if Moore was going to sign anywhere early, he wanted to find a place where he could compete for a rotation spot. The Tigers offered him both, which is why he'll be looking to resurrect his career in Detroit after signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal that was finalized Tuesday.

"The big thing was just that they really wanted me to start again," Moore said. "I was looking to be a starter again, and I think they're one of the clubs that made the most sense. I'm looking obviously for a rebound season coming off of a tough campaign last year, trying some new things out of the bullpen."

The 29-year-old southpaw will be tinkering some more in the spring, trying to find the spin rate and the delivery that would get him back to his form from a few years ago, if not his All-Star season of 2013. He hasn't talked with pitching coach Rick Anderson yet, but he knows they have some work to do.

Video: MLB Tonight on Tigers signing Matt Moore

Moore made 12 starts for Texas last season before ending the year in the Rangers' bullpen. It clearly wasn't his preference, but he pitched better in relief than he did as a starter. Noting the difference, Moore tried to take some lessons out of it that he can carry back into a starting role.

One is to simplify his delivery, much like his former teammate David Price.

"I banged the windup when I was out of the bullpen," Moore said. "Another thing I think the bullpen taught me was that you don't have to be your best or your sharpest. You just have to get outs."

Moore did not get enough of them as a starter last season, something he'll have to improve in Tigers camp if the team is going to count on him to deliver innings. He completed six innings just twice, compared with twice as many starts in which he didn't get out of the fourth -- including a 92-pitch, 11-out performance on May 18 against the White Sox.

"I think it usually comes down to predictability, what count was I getting hit hard in," Moore said. "It's always been a couple things: If you're falling behind early, they're probably going to find the barrel more often. Another thing is filling the zone with strikes."

Walks didn't help, despite the best first-pitch strike percentage of his career at 64.8. More often, hard hits were his demise. Opponents posted an average exit velocity of 90.2 mph on him in 2018, according to Statcast™, and compiled a .578 slugging percentage off his fastball.

Moore is a believer in spin rate and effectiveness. His velocity is about the same now as it was before his Tommy John surgery in 2014. The spin rate on his fastball, however, is lower the last couple seasons compared to '15 and '16.

"For me, it seems like the less I throw my cutter, the more my spin rate goes up," Moore said, noting the position of his wrist in his delivery. "It's been advised to me to maybe back off the cutter at times because it takes something off my four-seam fastball, which is my bread and butter to set up my overhand curveball."

Video: Matt Moore headed to Tigers on 1-year deal

As a reliever, Moore could hone in on the pitches that work and worry less about the mix. Now, he has to take that into a starting role.

One of Moore's strongest outings in relief felt like a start, and it might have played a role in his signing with Detroit. He replaced an ineffective Cole Hamels in the first inning on July 7 at Comerica Park and responded with 4 1/3 scoreless, two-hit innings, walking four but striking out six, including four of his final eight batters.

Now Moore will try to repeat that in Detroit's favor.

"I appreciate the eye test," Moore said. "I think it could be a great thing for the organization and myself looking to land and have a nice rebound year."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Matt Moore