Growing up in Eugene, Ore., Andrew Moore was always told he was too small and didn’t throw hard enough to become either a collegiate or Major League Baseball pitcher.
“The coaches at Oregon State University gave me an opportunity to pitch for them,” the 23-year-old Moore said. “A few years later, I heard the same thing prior to the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft.”
Moore ignored his detractors, and was selected in the second round by the Seattle Mariners.
“Getting the call from Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the top three moments in my life,” Moore said.
Moore, along with relief pitcher Dan Altavilla, broadcaster Dave Sims, and the Mariner Moose, stopped by Myklebust Gym at Lower Columbia College on Friday as part of the annual Mariners Caravan.
Moore made his Mariners’ debut on Sept. 22 at Safeco Field, where he checked Detroit to six hits through seven innings with four strikeouts for a 9-6 victory. He finished the season 1-5 with a 5.34 earned run average and 31 strikeouts in 59 innings.
“Getting to make my Major League debut in Seattle with the team which drafted me was really special,” he said. “It’s really cool to look back on my career so far. It’s been a heck of a ride.”
Fast forward seven months, and Moore is battling for a spot in the Mariners’ starting rotation. James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake and Erasmo Ramirez will likely grab the first four spots, with Moore, Ariel Miranda, Marco Gonzales, and Christian Bergman batting for the fifth spot.
“It’s going to be a very competitive race which drives everyone to elevate their game,” he said. “The game is changing with how pitching staffs are used, including moving some starters into the bullpen. Preparing for anything is tough, but it makes it more fun.”
The Mariners’ bullpen is also in flux, with at least a dozen pitchers including converted starter Altavilla battling for nine spots. Last season, Altavilla was 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA in 47 relief innings spanning 41 games. As the season progressed, he got stronger. In his final 16 appearances with the M’s last season, he posted a 1.74 ERA and averaged 10.03 strikeouts per nine innings, making him one of 11 rookies in club history with more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
“I’m a power arm in the bullpen with a hard slider, hard fastball and a two-seam sinker,” he said. “I also have a change-up from when I was a starter, so I have some options and can throw multiple innings out of the bullpen.”
One of the offseason additions to the M’s bullpen is veteran Juan Nicasio, who went 5-5 with a 2.61 ERA and six saves while pitching for Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and St. Louis last season. He’s the odds-on favorite to be the set-up man for closer Edwin Diaz.
“I haven’t had a chance to work with him,” Altavilla said. “He’s a huge guy (6-4, 252 pounds) who can really sling it, and I’m really excited to pick his brain.”
The Mariners report to Spring Training on Feb. 14 in Peoria, Ariz., with their first exhibition game slated for Feb. 23. They’ll kick off their regular-season with Cleveland on March 29 at Safeco Field.