ST. PETERSBURG -- More than a few interested members of the Rays watched when Matt Moore took the mound on Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field to throw a three-inning simulated game.
The good news for the Rays and their fans is that all went well for the 24-year-old left-hander, who continues to progress from left elbow soreness toward a return to the starting rotation.
Standing behind the batting cage to watch the sim game were David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, manager Joe Maddon, and head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield. Pitching coach Jim Hickey stood behind Moore, who pitched to Nick Ciuffo and Riley Unroe, the Rays' first and third picks, respectively, from this season's First-Year Player Draft. Neither had any success against Moore, though Unroe did hit what would have been a broken-bat single to left.
"I thought everything looked really fine," Maddon said. "Command? You know, not bad at all. Good alignment to the plate. No grimacing or anything facially. He looked really comfortable."
Moore allowed that the outing "went really well."
"I sat down three times, and I threw, like, 15 or 17 pitches every time I got up," Moore said. "I was really happy how everything felt. We threw all of the pitches, and I was on it just as hard as if it was in a game.
"I was happy with the way my arm felt. That was the biggest thing. I wanted to come out here and test it. The things that are left to adjust are things that are pretty typical throughout a season -- finding that fastball release point, and a lot of things feed off that."
Moore is 14-3 with a 3.41 ERA this season, but he has not pitched in a game since July 28 against the Yankees in New York. So the big question remains: When will he rejoin the rotation?
Maddon said Moore's return would most likely be after Sept. 1. Moore, of course, had other ideas. When asked what would be the next step for him, Moore couldn't give a definitive answer, but he did express his desire.
"I know what I would like it to be," Moore said. "Kind of treat this like a game, have three or four days of rest and get into a game. I feel comfortable enough with where I'm at that a bullpen [session] is going to get me ready for a game in four days. ... I feel like I can pitch Thursday against Anaheim. I think if I go out there and throw again, I don't want to say it would be a waste, but at the same time, if I could be throwing in a game, I'd rather be doing that."
Seeing how Moore's body -- and arm -- feel on Sunday will be a factor in determining his next step.
"There's going to be a lot of feedback, positive or negative, based on how I feel tomorrow," Moore said. "If I show up and I feel like it's a normal bullpen session -- a little standard soreness -- if that's the case, I don't think there will be too many reasons not to make my next start."
Maddon said the next step for Moore will be discussed after the Rays see how he feels on Sunday.
"I think the big thing tomorrow is to find out if he's going to be excessively sore," Maddon said. "I don't anticipate that, but we'll find out, and then we'll draw up the next step."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.