Following their promotion of Chris Marrero in the morning, the Nationals optioned scuffling first baseman-outfielder Tyler Moore to Class AAA Syracuse on Sunday night, hoping everyday at-bats will break the season-long slump that derailed his second major league season.
“He’ll be back soon,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s an outstanding player. Just want to kind of get him freshened up, kind of like what we did last year. I wanted to do it earlier and then we had some injuries that prohibited it. But he’s a great talent.”
Moore viewed the demotion as an opportunity to revive his season. Last year, Moore helped give the Nationals the most productive bench in the majors, blasting 10 homers in 156 at-bats. The Nationals gave him more responsibility when they traded Michael Morse, making him their top outfield reserve and right-handed bat off the bench.
This year, Moore had been part of an unproductive Nationals’ bench. His pinch-hit single in Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader left him hitting .158/.206/.274 with 36 strikeouts in 95 at-bats.
“It’s tough leaving the team, especially after two wins. But I know Davey and Rizz have the best interest in me and this team. And that needs to be the move right now.”
“Hopefully that’s the plan, just go down there and get comfortable, get some at-bats and come up here and hit. I’m not up here for my defense. I’m up here for my hitting, and I’m not doing it. There’s no excuses.”
Last year, Moore debuted in the majors with a brief stint and went 3 for 19 before the Nationals sent him back to Class AAA. After he returned two weeks later, Moore punched up a .911 OPS the rest of the season.
“I’ve done it before,” Moore said. “I did it last year for a little bit and came back up and was a lot more comfortable. Playing every day and knowing you’re going to play every day kind of relaxes you a lot. Even the last couple days and the last week, I felt a lot more relaxed. I think it’s going to be a good thing.”
Said Johnson: “I told him that it’s a tough situation for a young player with your talents. He said, ‘I know I can do it.’ And he said, ‘You’ve given me every opportunity and it’s all on me.’ But we think so highly of him, this is the best thing. Just get him some regular playing time and last year he wasn’t down very long and came back and I expect that to happen this year, too.”
Moore has become a popular teammate in the Nationals’ clubhouse, a soft-spoken 26-year-old with an easy charm. Teammates shook his hand and patted him on the chest, telling him they looked forward to seeing him back in the majors soon.
“I’ve told him over and over the last day or two that if they didn’t care about you, you’d stay up here and get four or five at-bats a week,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “That’s the hardest thing, being a younger guy, getting sent down for the first time, it’s hard to see a positive in that. But they just want him to get at-bats, get his stroke back, get confident again.
“We’ve all known it since he’s been up here that he’s an everyday player for a lot of people. He’s proved that in the minor leagues, what he can do with 500-600 at-bats, and he’s in a bad spot here. He just doesn’t get a lot of at-bats. You can’t expect a guy with not a lot of big league time to be productive off the bench. It’s just too hard. It’s hard to do when you’re playing every day. When you sit two, three days, it’s just really hard to do. I hate it for him because I love having him in this clubhouse and I love having his bat and the fact that he can play outfield, play first base. Selfishly, it’d be nice to have him up here. But there’s no doubt it’s the best thing for him.”