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PHILADELPHIA — Phillies general manager Sam Fuld still remembers the first few times he watched Matt Moore pitch in 2011.
Moore was one of the top prospects in baseball, right behind Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, when he joined the Rays that September. Moore went 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in three appearances, then threw seven scoreless innings in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Rangers.
“He just stepped right in and was arguably like the best pitcher on the planet,” Fuld said Wednesday afternoon. “I mean, he was unbelievable.”
The Phillies announced earlier in the day that they signed Moore to a one-year, $3 million contract. They have more modest expectations for Moore then when he broke into the big leagues a decade ago. They hope he will fill a spot in the rotation and provide stability to a pitching staff that needs it.
Moore pitched well from 2011-14 before injuries hit. First, he had Tommy John surgery in ’14. Then he had a right knee injury in ’19. It pushed him to pitch in Japan in ’20. It went so well that the Phillies targeted him as a potential fit, even before Dave Dombrowski arrived as president of baseball operations in December.
“One of our main goals this year when I came over here was to get starting pitching depth,” Dombrowski said. “We didn’t think the organization with the young guys, other than Spencer Howard — there might be some guys coming up — but we didn’t think we had a lot of depth behind the first four and then No. 5 with Howard. We’re looking for some individuals who can compete for our spots.
“We’re looking for Matt to be one of our starters and be one of our pitchers. But like everybody else they end up having to win jobs during the spring.”
The Phillies’ top three spots in the rotation are set with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin. The Nos. 4 and 5 spots are open. Moore is considered a favorite, but Vince Velasquez and Howard will compete as well. Howard’s workload might be limited, which is why Dombrowski said the Phillies could employ a six-man rotation at times in 2021.
The Phillies on Monday also agreed to a one-year, $4 million contract with right-hander Chase Anderson, which they have not yet confirmed. He will compete for a job. Ranger Suárez, Ramon Rosso, Adonis Medina and Damon Jones will be in camp as starters. Iván Nova signed a Minor League deal and will be in camp, too.
But Moore is intriguing because he is a former top prospect who pitched well before he injured his knee in Detroit in 2019 and again in ’20 in Japan.
“It seemed to make sense for me to go over there and try to prove my health and try to get back on the horse again as far as getting some bulk innings back under my belt,” Moore said. “After my first game, I was able to have some good starts and just keep building and keep that momentum and building my confidence.”
Moore said he had other big league offers on the table, but chose the Phillies.
“Out of the teams that I had the opportunity to go pitch for, this squad has the best chance of competing at a higher level this year,” he said. “I’ve played on some pretty good teams and I’ve played on some teams that had long seasons. I’m for sure at the point in my playing days where I want to have that feeling where you head to the park and you know someone’s chasing you, or you’re just one or two games away. That feeling is pretty invigorating. It’s something you talk to pretty much anyone in a clubhouse [about], your year is a lot more enjoyable.