ST. PETERSBURG — It has been nearly five months since Tampa Bay Rays LHP Matt Moore picked up a baseball and played catch.
On Monday, Moore is scheduled to perform that seemingly simple act for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery to replace the ligament in his left arm on April 22, and he will begin to do that on a regular basis every other day for the next little while as part of the program to strengthen his pitching arm.
But it’s just a small step in a long process to get back on the mound at the major-league level in what is typically a 13- to 15-month recovery process.
“After about four weeks of being in the (physical therapy stage) you start to embrace it,’’ Moore said of the recovery process.
Moore has been cleared to resume full activities in the weight room and in his regular training, and Wednesday he completed his fifth session of sock throws as the first step into getting back to throwing a ball.
Keeping a long-term focus can be taxing, so Rays manager Joe Maddon said Moore needs to keep looking in terms of breaking things down into segments of recovery instead of trying to look too far down the road.
“It can really become crushing mentally when you do look at it, so he has to be process-oriented and keep shooting for those short-term gains,’’ Maddon said. “But he’s going to start feeling good, and that’s when (players) want to accelerate it, and you can’t because the danger with these guys is they start feeling well and they want to accelerate the recovery, and a lot of times it goes the other way.’’
At this point, Moore is keeping focused on the short term, and he is not on any kind of a timetable to return, which won’t be until at least a month into the start of the 2015 season.
“There will still be little challenging parts to come, so I try to not even think about May or June,’’ Moore said.
“It’s one of those things that if it keeps going the way it has so far, I’ll be real happy with where we are at when I’m ready to get into games.’’
Toronto RHP R.A. Dickey, who started Tuesday and limited the Rays to two hits over seven innings, was struck in the head while in the outfield during Tampa Bay’s batting practice on Wednesday. While getting set to start tossing in the left-field area, Evan Longoria lined a ball right at Dickey, who was facing the left-field foul line at the time.
Dickey fell to the turf and sat for a few moments while Rays trainer Ron Porterfield quickly came out to attend to the Blue Jays’ pitcher. After a short period, Dickey stood up and resumed throwing before heading back to the Toronto club house. A team spokesman said Dickey was fine.
With only a handful of scheduled starts remaining in his first full season in the majors, Jake Odorizzi is hoping to finish on a positive note as he approaches the 150-inning mark for the season.
“My confidence never wavered (during the season), and I was able to stick it out,’’ Odorizzi said. “I want to finish healthy (now), that’s the main thing. You don’t want something to pop up this late in the year, that’s not how you want the season to end.
“You want to end the season on your own terms, go out make all your starts, and that’s been my goal since the start of the year, and I want to finish what I started this year.’’
RHP Brandon Gomes had a rough start to the season after making the Rays’ bullpen out of spring training, and he eventually spent most of the season with Triple-A Durham after being optioned on May 20. While with the Bulls, Gomes said he dropped a cut fastball from his repertoire and began working on regaining a comfort level with his slider instead.
That has helped Gomes regain his confidence at the major-league level, which was evident while throwing 22⁄3 perfect innings of relief on Tuesday, his first appearance since being recalled on Monday.
“My slider is back, it’s actually been harder, which is actually good, so I’ve been mixing in all three pitches to both sides of the plate,’’ Gomes said. “And then the biggest thing has been my command, because at this level it doesn’t matter if your stuff is good, if it’s not where you want, it’s going to get hit.
“This is my fourth year here back and forth, so I know I can pitch here, that’s not the issue, but it’s good to go out there and eat some innings up.’’
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Sunday will be the second Dog Days at Tropicana Field, as fans are permitted to bring their dogs and sit in the upper deck in left field. The Rays wives will also be collecting dog and cat food at gates 1 and 6 to benefit Pet Pal Animal Shelter in St. Petersburg.