Rays’ farm director relishes growth of Matt Moore

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There is a father-like excitement for Mitch Lukevics in seeing Matt Moore become an All-Star.

Lukevics, the Tampa Bay Rays’ director of minor-league operations, has seen Moore grow from a raw talent into one of the American League’s most effective pitchers. On Thursday, the Rays left-hander (13-3, 3.44 ERA) received word that he was named to his first All-Star Game, to be played Tuesday at Citi Field in New York. Moore replaces injured Texas Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish (back).

“It’s a journey,” Lukevics said. “It’s like raising your kids.”

As with all journeys, however, there are memories of a beginning. The Rays — then the Devil Rays — drafted Moore in the eighth round of the 2007 draft.

At age 18, Moore debuted in the minors in rookie ball with the Princeton Rays. Future stops included the Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods, the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs, the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits and the Triple-A Durham Bulls.

Lukevics spoke for a few minutes Friday at Tropicana Field about Moore’s development.

When it started to come together

“He goes to Bowling Green, and he gets off to a bad start, and the technique is not where it needs to be — the release point is not there. He had such good stuff that he is physically maturing that he just out-stuffs everybody. Basically, the same thing (happened) when he got to Charlotte. Early struggles. He starts figuring it out more. Then he gets to Double-A. Then he starts repeating his delivery with more and more consistency, better technique, more consistency. It was better strikes. … You’ve got to give Matt Moore a lot of credit, because he’s a good worker with good character with some good coaches to give him some guidance. Everyone one of our guys would tell you that it’s about Matt Moore and his effort.”

On Moore’s major-league potential

“I think you saw it early on, because you know the type of stuff that’s needed here to compete. You don’t know early on, mentally, how’s he’s going to be able to handle. You don’t know early on what kind of aptitude he has. … As he goes through his journey, you’re starting to see more signs of that. When it gets to Double-A, and he starts making that progress, you know. You say, ‘This is a real possibility in not too long.’ “

On Moore’s mental strength

“In Double-A, you saw the mental tenacity that you needed. You couldn’t out-stuff him in Double-A, and he learned how to pitch a little bit more with his good stuff. And then he knew that someday, that is going to happen.”

On traits needed to survive the minors’ mental grind

“I don’t know if it’s one trait, because everybody is different. They need to go through it. They need to experience (it). They have never had this experience and, mentally, it’s challenging. Physically, it’s challenging. I would say they need some mental tenacity, some mental perseverance to grind it out. A lot of kids find out in this process that it’s not for them, because they didn’t know what they were signing up for, and now they’re in it. … This is what they have to go through. I’d say mental tenacity, perseverance, grinding it out. You never know until you go through it. It is so mental. It is so physical. You have to go through it. … They don’t know the drill until they go through the Bowling Green season.”

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