MLB

Mild lower abdominal strain slows Rays' Matt Moore

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP)

The Tampa Bay Rays say a mild lower abdominal strain that's slowed prized pitching prospect Matt Moore in spring training is not a major concern.

Nevertheless, the team is taking a cautious approach with the rookie left-hander who was held out of a scheduled live batting practice session this week. Manager Joe Maddon stressed the injury is not considered serious, and Moore felt good after playing catch from 75 feet on Wednesday.

''Everything was good today,'' Moore said. ''Everything has been great the last few days, too.''

The 22-year-old made his major league debut last September and won his only regular-season start at Yankee Stadium. Eight days later, he became the youngest pitcher to start and win a team's opening postseason game, working seven shutout innings in a 9-0 victory over Texas in the AL divisional playoff round.

The Rangers went on to win the series, three games to one.

''I'm not concerned. He's fine. But it's the beginning of camp and we're just treating it this way,'' Maddon said, adding that there's no reason at this time to believe the discomfort in the middle of the abdomen might be hinder the pitcher's bid to earn a spot in the starting rotation coming out of spring training.

In two starts with Tampa Bay, including the postseason, Moore allowed six hits over 12 scoreless innings, walked three and struck out 17.

Still, he's not assured of beginning the season in one of baseball's youngest - and deepest - rotations. David Price, James Shields, 2011 AL rookie of the year Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann return from last season, with Moore and right-hander Alex Cobb expected to push the incumbents this spring.

Maddon plans to use a six-man rotation when spring training games begin this weekend. Price will start the exhibition opener against Minnesota in Fort Myers on Saturday and Hellickson is scheduled to face the Twins when the teams meet again the following day in Port Charlotte.

It's unclear when Moore will be back on a mound.

''I don't anticipate it being a long time. ... I don't consider it a setback at all,'' Maddon said of the injury.

Moore, who began last season at Double-A Montgomery, signed a $14 million, five-year contract in December. The deal includes club options for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons that could make it worth about $39.75 million over eight years.

The hard-throwing young left-hander was a combined 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA in 27 starts with Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.

Notes: Price and Shields faced hitters Wednesday during a live batting practice session. ... Most of the team's regulars will take part in a four-inning intrasquad game on Thursday. Among the pitchers scheduled to throw are Cobb, LH Cesar Ramos, RH Josh Lueke, LH Alex Torres and RH Matt Bush. ... The Rays said Opening Day at Tropicana Field against the New York Yankees (April 6) is sold out. It's the seventh straight season the team has sold out its home opener.

Tagged: Rays, David Price

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