Phillies are counting on veterans Matt Moore, Chase Anderson in starting rotation
When he was exploring his 2021 pitching options, Chase Anderson considered playing for Fukuoka SoftBank in Japan, but he was waiting for Matt Moore to decide if Moore would return to SoftBank for a second season.
Moore ended up opting to sign with the Phillies on Feb. 3, five days before Anderson also agreed to a one-year deal with Philadelphia.
In addition to teammates, they have become friends and so have their wives.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Anderson during a Monday Zoom call. “We didn’t know each other before this. It’s been fun to get to know him. ... Coming back here, he has something to prove, like myself.”
The two veteran starters are being counted upon to solidify the back end of the Phils’ rotation behind Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin. They’ve pitched well with a little over two weeks remaining until the April 1 season opener against the Atlanta Braves and have established themselves as the favorites to handle the No. 4 and 5 starting roles.
The other primary candidates are perennial spring hopeful Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard. Velasquez threw a simulated game Sunday while the plan to use Howard for two innings Monday against the New York Yankees was scrapped after he had back spasms that should sideline Howard for a few days.
Moore, the lone left-hander in the mix, has allowed one run in eight Grapefruit League innings after a four-inning, one-run outing Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I’m happy with where I’m at, physically and mentally, in spring,” Moore said. “… Just trying to keep it simple, throw strike one and continue to build from there.”
Meanwhile, Anderson has been even more effective, throwing four shutout innings Monday vs. the Yankees to give him seven scoreless frames this spring.
“I think they’ve pitched extremely well,” said Phillies manager Joe Girardi. “(Moore is) ahead in the count all of the time and he’s allowed to use all of his pitches and expand when he needs to. … Chase had to go through a pretty tough lineup (Monday) and did a really good job.”
Moore and Anderson would really give the Phils a boost if they can provide some stability as the fourth and fifth starters.
A year ago, the inability to get consistent innings from the back end of the staff was a clear issue, as evidenced by ending up with a total of three quality starts (six innings or more, allowing three or fewer earned runs) from that group in the abbreviated 2020 season – two by Jake Arrieta and one by Velasquez. The Phillies went 28-32 and missed the expanded playoffs by one game.
“You know what you’re going to get when we go out there,” Anderson said. “We’re going to pitch every fifth day and do our work in between.”
The 31-year-old Moore was solid in Japan last season, compiling a 6-3 record with a 2.65 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 78 innings. That followed a ’19 campaign with the Detroit Tigers in which he needed season-ending right knee surgery just two starts and 10 shutout innings into the year.
Moore was effective earlier in his career, highlighted by a 2013 all-star selection with the Tampa Bay Rays (17-4, 3.29 ERA). He struggled in 2017-18 for the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers, going a combined 9-23 with a 5.99 ERA.
The key for Moore this spring has been pounding the strike zone, especially on the first pitch, to get ahead of the hitters.
“I’m trusting my stuff,” Moore said. “I’m not trying to make something better than I need it to be. At times when I fall behind it’s because I’m trying to make a pitch better than it needs to be.”
While the 33-year-old Anderson had a difficult time during the 60-game 2020 campaign for the Toronto Blue Jays (7.22 ERA in 10 appearances), he was a reliable starter for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2017-19, compiling a 29-16 record and 3.63 ERA in 438 1/3 innings.
Anderson arrived at spring training last month in Clearwater, Florida, with the mindset that nothing is guaranteed. That was also his approach in 2017, when he turned in his best season (12-4, 2.74 ERA).
“I came in (like) I’ve got to win this spot,” Anderson said. “I think what brings out the best in most guys and, for myself, is competition. … Having success so far and continuing to stay within myself and keeping a humble attitude, (if I) just continue to work and get better, it’s going to bode well for me in the future and, I think, for this team.”
Tom Moore: email@example.com; @TomMoorePhilly