Spring training is officially underway, real baseball games are back. And, despite any lingering cold weather, there is plenty of optimism for the Philadelphia Phillies this year.
However, if the Phillies want to make a serious playoff push in a loaded National League East, they will need some key players to rebound from their recent performances. Here are three candidates who could have big bounce-back years in red pinstripes during the 2021 season.
Left-hander Matt Moore could be a valuable Phillies starting rotation addition.
The entire bullpen could have made sense here, but instead, I am going with left-handed starting pitcher Matt Moore. After pitching all of 2020 in Japan, Moore is back in the majors with a chance to compete for a Phillies rotation spot. A former top prospect with the Tampa Bay Rays, injuries derailed Moore’s career and he hasn’t been quite the same since.
Moore was shelled in his last extended action in the majors — going 3-8 with a 6.79 ERA in 12 starts and 39 games with the Texas Rangers back in 2018. He started two games with the Detroit Tigers in 2019, throwing 10 scoreless innings and earning no-decisions in each game, but was then lost for the season with a knee injury.
Last season, Moore started 13 games in Japan — going 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA. He’s seemingly healthy now and feels like an early favorite to win one of the final spots in the Phillies’ starting rotation. If he can pitch well enough and earn a place there, he’d offer the club a quality left-handed starter, something they haven’t had since Cole Hamels was traded to the Texas Rangers.
A lot will get said about how the Phillies did or didn’t improve the bullpen this season. Just as important though was improving their starting rotation, especially with Jake Arrieta departing in free agency. If the team’s new starters like Moore can give them quality innings and pitch deeper into games, some pressure will be lifted off the relievers. That alone should help everyone involved rebound to some degree.
I think Moore can have a nice comeback season in 2021. He seems to be fully recovered from both his knee and elbow injuries. Also, the 85 innings he pitched last season would have led the majors. As silly as it might seem, that is going to be huge after last year’s shortened season.