The parallels were so chilling we thought history was repeating itself. Three years to the day that David Price made his major league debut, Matt Moore did the same. Then it looked like Moore just might wind up be better. After Price emerged as the Rays’ closer in the 2008 postseason, Moore started ALDS Game 1 against the Texas Rangers three years later and tossed 7 shutout innings to lead the Rays to victory. Moore’s rookie year went significantly better than Price’s as he managed a 3.81 ERA compared to Price’s 4.42 mark, striking out a 1.7 batters more per 9 innings. But the comparison was not going to hold any weight until we saw how well Moore could mirror Price’s second place finish in the AL Cy Young voting in his second big league season. Moore was good in 2013, going 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA, but injuries held him to just a 150.1 innings pitched and his control remains a concern. The good news for Moore: Price is back, and Moore will get a mulligan as he hopes to take the next step as a starting pitcher.
In 2010, David Price had his dominant season, making the Rays confident enough in their rotation to trade Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs. The Rays hoped Matt Moore could follow suit and set up a similar situation, but that scenario did not fall into place. Price remaining on the team certainly is not an indictment of Moore–the Rays were ready to trade Price nevertheless if the right offer came. And for the sake of Moore that is a good thing. Having Price on the team takes a significant load off Moore and the Rays’ other starters. Moore will not feel any additional pressure to deliver that breakout season knowing that Price will slot ahead of him no matter what. Then the benefits of having Price around will continue in the clubhouse. Price is the veteran leader of the rotation, and Moore will receive another year as his pupil. Whether Moore continues to progress in his development will be most dependent on his work with pitching coach Jim Hickey to find a consistent release point and improve his command of his pitches. But we know that there are areas that Price can supplement Hickey’s instruction, and the psychological benefits of having Price around makes Moore’s outlook a little brighter.
The Rays wholeheartedly believe that Matt Moore has what it takes to succeed David Price as their ace. It has not happened yet, but Moore has one more year to prove himself as Price comes back for another season. There was nothing wrong with Moore’s story diverging from that of Price in 2013 and the Rays will take advantage of every season that they overlap. If Moore’s breakout can take place, the Rays’ rotation will be scary this season, and it certainly will have been worth the wait.