DENVER — The first time Tyler Moore got the call to the big leagues, he admits he might not have been mentally ready. Going from playing every day in Triple-A to playing sparingly in the major leagues, Moore found himself standing in for pinch hit at-bats and being overcome.
“The crowd’s getting big, there’s runners on,” Moore said. “I’d get tensed up.”
Moore was optioned back to Triple-A on May 28. He went back to playing first base and left field everyday and hit .391 with two homers. Nine days later he was back in the major leagues. Since then, Moore has hit .450 (9-for-20) with two doubles, two homers, five walks and only three strikouts. He got the start Monday against Colorado lefty Jeff Francis.
His performance has been enough that he’s worked his way into a platoon role in left field with Steve Lombardozzi. In the last 11 games, if Lombardozzi isn’t playing left field, Moore is as the Nationals have faced far more left-handed pitching than they did early in the season. If he keeps producing, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said his role could expand further.
“There’s been some discussion on Tyler of ‘Not just lefties,’” Johnson said. “His performance has not gone unnoticed by the manager or the staff, or all of baseball.
“He’s gaining respect from his teammates and around the league. All you have to do is watch how cautious the pitchers are when they pitch to him. And he’s not swinging at balls out of the zone.”
Moore, who is hitting .417 against left-handers and .259 against right-handers, credits the brief minor league interlude for allowing him time to reboot after his first call-up. He said this time around “feels like a clean slate,” and cites improved confidence in himself for his increased comfort at the plate and in the outfield as a converted first baseman.
He is seeing 4.27 pitches per plate appearance and only 21 percent of his strikes have come swinging — but he’s swung at 52 percent of the pitches he’s seen.
“Now I know exactly what to expect,” he said. “How the stadiums are going to be and how my emotions are going to be to kind of calm myself down, and just play baseball and compete with the pitchers.”
“Now it’s like ‘OK now I’ve got a foundation, let’s go back up,’” he added. “I feel better mentally.”
This spring, when the Nationals discussed keeping Lombardozzi on their roster as a utility and bench player they were concerned they wouldn’t be able to get him the requisite number of at-bats so as not to hinder his development. They had the same concerns with Moore after his first stint.
Their play, as well as openings in the lineup, has allowed those worries to fade.
“Both these guys are young players we think highly of,” Johnson said. “And they’re getting enough at-bats that it’s not going to be an issue.”