SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Matt Moore had plenty of time to ponder the worst season of his career when he made the long drive last fall from San Francisco to his home in Florida.
The left-hander concluded, among other things, that he relied too much on his cut fastball, a theory that he’ll be testing with a new team.
The Giants traded Moore to the Texas Rangers in December after he matched the National League high with 15 losses and had the worst ERA in the majors (5.52) among pitchers with at least 162 innings.
“Last year I was throwing it considerably more than certain pitches,” Moore said. “I think the overall usage of the pitch is going to be reformed a little bit. It is definitely a very usable pitch, but I just want to make sure everything else is coming along with it.”
Moore is set to put the troubling 2017 season behind him. The 28-year-old’s first spring start is Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox.
There’s plenty to forget beyond the 6-15 record. How about lefties hitting .373 against him, a big league high? Or allowing 80 extra-base hits, second-most in the NL?
In the last two starts before his cross-country drive, Moore threw six scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over Colorado before eight of the 13 batters he faced scored in an 11-4 loss to Arizona.
“I think that’s when the reflection started, coming off a bad last start of the season,” Moore said. “The one before that was pretty sharp so I wanted to finish up stronger. I think just trying not to be too tough on myself.”
The Giants, who acquired Moore at the trading deadline in 2016, wanted to dump his $9 million salary.
The Rangers are hoping they acquired a version of the Moore, who went 17-4 with a 3.32 ERA in 2013 for Tampa Bay. Or the Moore who allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings for Tampa Bay to beat Texas in the opener of an AL Division Series in 2011, when the Rangers made the second of two straight trips to the World Series.
“I didn’t realize the moment I was in,” said Moore, who was a 22-year-old rookie making just his second big league start.
Moore had season-ending elbow surgery after two starts in 2014. He was ineffective after his return from Tommy John surgery and spent a month in the minors in 2015 before going 13-12 combined with a 4.08 ERA with the Rays and Giants two years ago.
There was another playoff highlight in 2016 when Moore allowed two hits and two runs in eight innings, helping the Giants take a 5-2 lead into the ninth inning of Game 4 of the NL Division Series. But the Cubs scored four runs against the San Francisco bullpen to clinch the series.
The only highlight for last season came late, when Moore backed off the cutter and threw more four-seam fastballs.
“Toward the end of the season I was up to 94-95-96 (mph),” Moore said. “Just to see that still in there was encouraging as far as velocity.”
Now Moore and the Rangers are hoping to see better results.