OSU star pitches to Mariners
If there's one thing Andrew Moore won't do, it's get ahead of himself.
The former Oregon State standout is advancing quickly in the Seattle Mariners' chain, but the 22-year-old right-hander isn't making any predictions about when he might make the big club.
"After I got drafted, one of the first things they told me was to stay away from timelines or expectations in your head," says Moore, taken by Seattle with the 72nd overall pick in the 2015 draft. "Everyone is different. Just because someone goes up fast doesn't mean you will.
"I've tried not to think about that. I just want to become the best pitcher I can at whatever level I'm at, and make the most of it."
Moore has made the most of his opportunities in a year and a half with the organization.
Last season, he was given the Mariners' Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award after going a combined 12-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 28 starts for Class A Bakersfield (3-1) and Double-A Jackson (9-3).
Moore capped the season with two excellent starts in the Southern League playoffs, allowing two runs, seven hits and no walks in 15 innings to help the Generals to the league championship.
"That was incredible," he says of his time with Jackson. "It's tough to say it's the most fun I've had, given my three great years at Oregon State.
"But it was so easy to show up to the ballpark with that group of guys. Everyone was pulling for each other, trying to win day in and day out. It was a loose group and a fun group to be around. Winning championships at any level is the ultimate goal. That never gets old."
The experience winning Pac-12 titles as a freshman and sophomore at OSU "absolutely" benefited him last season.
"Having been in that situation before — going to Omaha, competing in regionals and super regionals — I know what the feeling of playoff baseball is like," Moore says.
Moore is in the Mariners' big-league spring training camp for the first time, one of 32 pitchers competing for spots in the majors and with Triple-A Tacoma. Insiders are predicting he'll begin the season with the Rainiers, though it's possible he'll wind up with the Mariners' new Double-A team, the Arkansas Travelers.
"Just on experience, he might wind up being in a tough spot numbers-wise," Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto told the media before spring training began. "But in terms of his ability to perform, he's as good as any of those guys (at the Triple-A level)."
Some think Moore might wind up with the Mariners before the end of the upcoming season. He has pitched in two games this spring, allowing no runs and one hit with no walks and three strikeouts over four innings.
Moore made his first start Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Glendale, Arizona, holding them scoreless and to one hit over two innings, throwing only 21 pitches.
"It went really well," Moore says. "I faced some of their main guys and didn't suffer too much damage. I didn't get to throw as many off-speed pitches as I wanted, but ultimately, I was happy with the result."
In his three years at Oregon State, Moore carved a 27-9 record with a 2.10 ERA. The Eugene native tied the school single-season win record as a freshman in 2013, going 14-2 the last time the Beavers made it to the College World Series. During the 2013 campaign, Moore was a first-team All-American and Pac-12 pitcher of the year.
After being chosen in "Round B" after the second round by the Mariners following his junior season at OSU, Moore was 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 14 games (eight starts) with Everett in the short-A Northwest League. Late last season, he was given the franchise's Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award in a presentation before a Mariners' game at Safeco Field, beating out such as Edwin Diaz, Dan Altavilla and Ryan Yarbrough. Diaz and Altavilla made the Mariners after starting in the minors last season.
"That was awesome, especially with all the great pitchers we had in the minors last year," says Moore, tabbed before this season by one service as the No. 8 prospect in the Mariners' organization. "To receive the award in front of that Safeco crowd — it reminded me that's the ultimate goal, to make it up to Seattle."
At Oregon State, Moore got by primarily with his fastball command and outstanding changeup. During the past offseason and in spring training at Peoria, Arizona, he has worked hard to expand his repertoire.
"We've been working hard on my spin, trying to develop the curveball and slider," he says. "I had those pitches when I was at Oregon State, but didn't use them too much because I knew they wouldn't get consistent outs.
"Now I'm trying to space it out so I have three completely separate speed ranges (with the fastball, slider and curve), just to keep the hitter off-balance."
Moore also has gradually improved his fastball, touching 94 miles per hour.
"Blowing batters away isn't my game," he says. "Mine is locating my fastball and throwing everything off that. But if I can stay in the low 90s range, it helps my other pitches."
Moore was in minor-league spring training camp a year ago but pitched in one major-league game against the Dodgers, allowing one hit and no earned runs in two innings. Being in major-league camp this spring has been a whole new experience.
"It's been unbelievable — way different than I expected," he says. "It's great to consistently be around the big-league players and coaches. (Manager) Scott Servais keeps things loose. We have a team meeting every morning, and he brings new guys up to have them talk about themselves, which has brought everyone together.
"There are no cliques. We've done a lot of bonding, on and off the field. The veterans have been great to me. It's been a ton of fun. I look forward to coming to the park every day, and I find myself staying a couple of extra hours afterward, playing pool and sharing stories with the other guys."
Moore hasn't been asked yet to speak, but he was one of two players chosen as "Oscar reporters" prior to the Academy Awards.
"We had to watch all the movies and present our picks and critique all the actors," he says. "I picked 'La La Land' to win and I had Denzel Washington winning the best actor. I really liked 'Lion,' but probably would have voted for 'Fences' as the best movie. It had a powerful message."
Even with 30-plus pitchers in camp, Moore says he has received plenty of coaching.
"We have three groups, and we're always in a rotation, with seven or eight pitching coaches," Moore says. "You're always getting time with them. Every time you throw a bullpen, minor league coaches are there. There are always eyes on you, Whatever you're doing. So you're always getting good feedback, even from veterans like Felix (Hernandez), (Hisashi) Iwakuma and James Paxton. They've all been willing to give pieces of information and advice."
Moore has kept a journal since the fall of his freshman year at Oregon State.
"Five years later, I'm still doing it after every outing," says Moore, a communications major at OSU and a gifted writer who may one day publish his work. "It's ended up being a huge tool on how to observe myself, what adjustments I need to make, little ideas that creep into my mind. Like, 'start this pitch at the umpire's mask,' or 'get the curveball to the catcher's right foot.'
"If you don't write it down, it's gone forever and you forget about it. I've leaned on my journaling through tough times."
Moore has developed a friendship with former Mariners ace Jamie Moyer, who won 265 games during a 25-year major-league career. Moyer presented him with the Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award at Safeco last September. It's been particularly meaningful, since Moyer's style was similar to Moore's.
"We've had three or four good, long conversations," Moore says. "He's a great guy and has been a huge help to me.
"One thing we talked about — he knew he wasn't going to overpower guys, so he never tried to. He stuck to his game, knowing when the adrenaline would take over."
Another ex-Beaver, infielder Tyler Smith, is in the Mariners' big-league camp after spending last season at Tacoma. Smith was OSU's shortstop during Moore's freshman year.
"It's been fun having him around," Moore says. "He can play multiple positions and is really good with the glove. Hopefully he'll get his opportunity to make it to the bigs this season."
This year's Beavers were in Arizona for a week and a half, and Moore made time to visit with his former coaches and the OSU players nearly every day.
"They're really good," he says. "Starting pitching was the main thing I was worried about, but Luke Heimlich, Jake Thompson, Sam Tweedt and Bryce Fehmel have been throwing great. With that lineup and the way they play defense, it's hard not to believe they can make a long run this season."
Moore's goals for this season are simple.
"Whatever level I'm at, I want to get comfortable throwing all four of my pitches," he says. "I want to stay healthy and win a championship. If that's with Seattle, it would be a dream. Those fans deserve a playoff run. That's what we're all fighting for to make happen."
Moore has the respect of those high up in the Seattle organization.
"Andrew is an incredibly competitive, high-character person," farm director Andy McKay told reporters before spring camp began. "People who keep getting people out and keep winning games tend to move up. I have no doubt in my mind how the story is going to end for Andrew Moore."