Matt Moore bullish on return as Rays wait to monitor pain

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Matt Moore took another encouraging step in his recovery from left elbow soreness, throwing a three-inning simulated game Saturday at Tropicana Field that he described as being “happy with the way everything felt.”

Moore, who has been on the disabled list since July 31, threw about 50 pitches in three “innings” against two recent Rays draft picks, catcher Nick Ciuffo and infielder Riley Unroe, who are both part of the GCL Rays, based in Port Charlotte, Fla.

“I liked the way my fastball felt coming out,” Moore said. “I feel like I was able to make some adjustments to get on top of it. That’s kind of one of the things I battle is getting on the side of it from time to time. Today was a normal day of pitching for me in the sense that I can focus on the adjustments as opposed to what my arm is feeling like.”

Moore said the Rays will monitor his pain level Sunday before determining his next step. When asked about a possible timetable for Moore’s return, manager Joe Maddon said he anticipates that the left-hander might not return until after Sept. 1.

Moore was more bullish on a return date, saying he hopes that the next time he pitches it’s in a major-league start. But Maddon said possibly at least another bullpen session would be necessary before Moore can return.

“I think the big thing is to find out tomorrow if he’s going to be excessively sore or not,” Maddon said. “I don’t anticipate that, but we’ll find out, and then we’ll draw up the next step.”

Moore is 14-3 with a 3.41 ERA in 21 starts this season, and he was named to his first All-Star Game in July. But he left a start against the New York Yankees on July 28 after five innings with the soreness and is learning to use patience in his absence.

After a successful simulated game Saturday, he hopes his return comes soon.

“I’m glad we’re on to seeing what tomorrow is going to feel like,” Moore said. “It’s kind of the next step in the process of getting back so I can focus on something else other than a sim game. … This being done makes us that much closer to possibly my next start. It was just encouraging to get out there.”

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