KANSAS CITY – The pain Rays left-hander Matt Moore felt last year in his pitching elbow, the one that sent him to the disabled list for more than a month, was no longer on his mind, not once he began throwing his change-up during spring training and again during his first start of the season.
Then Moore felt the pain return during the fifth inning Monday at Kauffman Stadium while pitching to Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar. And he felt again while throwing two more change-ups, the last to the next batter, Nori Aoki.
“It really came out of nowhere,” Moore said.
Moore quickly left the game for treatment of a sore left elbow. He said X-rays were negative. He will undergo an MRI this morning in Kansas City.
“I try to stay optimistic,” Moore said after the Rays 4-2 loss. “It could be maybe just a little hyperextension action, because I had it before and it kind of went away. It's one of those things, almost like a bruise. It's really hard to get it to fire, for me to find that uncomfortable feeling. I think that's just a part of waiting until (this morning) when we get the MRI.”
According to Rays manager Joe Maddon, head athletics trainer Ron Porterfield said he didn't believe the injury was as severe as the one that sidelined Moore in the middle of last season.
That injury occurred against the New York at Yankee Stadium.
On that afternoon, Moore said the elbow bothered him ever time he threw his change-up beginning when he was warming up in the bullpen.
On Monday, the elbow didn't bother Moore until that one pitch to Escobar.
“Ronnie thought initially from when he had spoken with the doctor here that it's something less than last year,” Maddon said, “but we have to wait for the test for it to be conclusive.”
Moore was about as optimistic as a pitcher could be having been removed earlier that night from a game because of an elbow injury. Yet, Moore said no matter how he moved his elbow he could no longer feel the pain.
“I think it's a good thing I can't really find a place to make it uncomfortable anymore,” he said.
Erik Bedard could join the Rays as a replacement for Moore if Moore ends up on the disabled list. Bedard, who lost out on a bid to make the rotation as the fifth starter in camp and signed a minor league contract to pitch for the Rays Triple A Durham team, started last night for the Bulls.
But Moore said he wasn't looking any further past this morning's MRI.
“I'm not really sure,” he said when asked about a trip to the DL. “I haven't really thought about that. I'm really focused on the only thing I can do, (this morning's) MRI. It's extremely frustrating to have that unknown outcome on your mind, but I don't really care to speculate a whole more on what's to come and what if.”
Maddon said Moore lobbied to stay in the game. He asked Maddon if he could at least throw a few fastballs with assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker standing near the mound. Maddon said no and called for Cesar Ramos to replace Moore.
“The feeling was in the elbow again,” Maddon said, “and I can't take any chances with that once a pitcher talks about his elbow.”
Meanwhile, Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas held the Rays to only four hits in eight innings. He left after allowing a leadoff homer in the ninth inning to Ben Zobrist. The Rays added another run with a two-out, pinch-hit single by Matt Joyce.
The Rays are now 3-14 all-time in road openers, including 2-7 under Maddon.
“I'm normally bad in openers,” Maddon said before the game. “I'm a bad opener. I'd much rather be a good closer, I think. Opening Days in general have not been very kind to teams that I've been with.”
The forces were against the Rays on Monday well before Moore's injury.
Not only do they have little luck during road openers, they can't win in Kansas City.
The Rays began Monday's game with the best road record in the major leagues since 2010, entering the season with a 176-149 record away from Tropicana Field. The Rays, though, just can't seem to win at Kauffman Stadium, where they are 3-11 since 2010, including losses in their last seven.
Escobar broke open one-run game in the bottom of the sixth inning with a three-run double off Heath Bell.
The following inning, Bell hit Omar Infante in the left side of Infante's jaw with a pitch. Infante immediately left the game, walking off the field under his own power while clutching a towel to his bloody face.
“My prayers go out to him,” Bell said. “I feel really bad. I know he feels worse.”