ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Matt Moore walked in the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse with a brace on his left arm, a visual sign of his long path to come after Tommy John surgery.
The activity near him Tuesday afternoon at Tropicana Field following the Rays’ return from a 10-game road trip was a welcomed sign. He compared the feeling to "going back to school," and he was eager to pull for his teammates in person once more.
"A lot of excitement," Moore said before the Rays began a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Moore, 24, spoke with closure about his situation in his first comments since Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure April 22 in Pensacola. Moore said he must wait four to five months before he can begin throwing again. He said the coming months will include a mix of cardio and upper-body conditioning with lower-body strengthening included.
"It has been slow so far," Moore said. "But overall, it has been fine. … Now that the surgery is done, I feel done, where before the surgery was done, I still felt like I had something to offer. But this is a new chapter for me to focus on, just something from each day to go in and focus on that."
The surgery brought some finality for Moore after the left-hander felt discomfort in his arm after 4 1/3 innings of work during a loss to the Kansas City Royals on April 7 at Kauffman Stadium. He was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar-collateral ligament, and after an April 14 throwing session in Baltimore, he announced his decision to have the surgery.
Moore became the 13th pitcher on a major-league roster to undergo the procedure since the start of spring training, and he’s not expected to be back until next season. A first-time All-Star last year, he was 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA this season before the injury.
"I don’t think there was any pain really, unless I kind of moved or something," Moore said of the surgery. "Sleeping for a few days (afterward) was a little messed up. But other than that, I don’t really have any complaints."
Moore has felt recent improvements. He said swelling has decreased and his range of motion has increased in the last five or six days. He called the progress "a step forward" and he said he chooses not to wear the brace when performing low-stress activities such as sitting on the couch or sleeping. He said he tries to take 60-90-minute walks each night.
Still, this is only the start in Moore’s long process to return. Rays manager Joe Maddon knows challenges will come.
"I’m sure it’s going to be more difficult the longer you sit out," Maddon said.
"He’s a great kid. He’s a strong competitor. That’s where the support comes from us. That’s where the support comes from our great training staff and the doctors."
OTHER PITCHING UPDATES
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in January, said he threw from about 100 feet Tuesday after bullpen sessions last Thursday and Sunday. He plans to throw another bullpen session Wednesday, and he’s eying a late June return to the rotation. … Right-hander Alex Cobb, on the disabled list with a left oblique strain since April 13, threw about 33 pitches in a bullpen session Tuesday that Maddon described as "great movement on the fastball" in addition to praising Cobb’s velocity. Cobb said he’s targeting a return to the rotation sometime in late May.