Tyler Moore hit 31 HRs in back-to-back seasons in the Washington Nationals' system in 2010-11, but he struggled coming off the bench for the Nats early in 2012 after being called up to make his MLB debut in late April. Moore was 3 for 19 with seven Ks in the first 12 games and 19 plate appearances in his first major league run before he was optioned back to the Nationals' top minor league affiliate.
When he returned from Triple-A, he started to hit in the majors too, eventually putting up a .277/.349/.562 line with nine doubles and 10 HRs in 63 games and 152 PAs between June 8th when he rejoined the Nationals and the end of the season with that year's NL East champs.
The soon-to-turn 27-year-old slugger went through the same struggles in 2013. He had a .158/.206/.274 line in 38 games and 102 plate appearances before he was sent to Triple-A again in the second week of June.
Moore put up a .318/.395/.584 line with 14 doubles and 10 HRs in 45 games and 200 PAs in the minors.
He returned to the Nationals for good in mid-August and hit in the majors too, finishing the season by going 21 for 61 (.344/.375/.459) with four doubles, a home run, two walks and 19 Ks over 65 PAs in the final 21 games of the year. On the year, however, Moore put up a .222/.260/.347 line in the majors after a .263/.327/.513 campaign in 2012, and he dropped from +0.6 fWAR to -1.2.
It wasn't an easy season for Moore.
"It was tough," Moore told reporters Saturday at NatsFest in the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. "But at the same time it was kind of a wake-up call. You can't just roll in here and think you're going to do good all the time. This is a tough and humbling game. It was just kind of an eye-opener and it makes you a little bit more hungry. A lot of people were talking bad, and you just want to prove them wrong, but at the same time you want to prove to yourself that you belong here."
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With Adam LaRoche pencilled in at first as the 2014 campaign approaches and Ryan Zimmerman expected to get some work in at first base this season, what role Moore will play is unclear going into the season. He's the primary backup at first, but the additions to the Nats' roster like Nate McLouth and Scott Hairston could limit the available at bats after Moore played 76 of his first 104 games in the majors in the outfield.
Moore is concentrating on getting off to a good start this time around. "I think that's the big key with Spring Training," he said. "I think last year maybe I was a little too lackadaisical in the Spring and that's what I want to kind of correct this year, because I know that I don't have an everyday job, obviously, and I have to come in and be ready to hit when I have a chance and when I have that chance I have to take the best advantage of it."
After two seasons of coming off the bench, he's also a little more comfortable and knows what it takes to be successful in a difficult role.
"Physically I definitely know how," Moore said. "Mentally, it's still a challenge. And I think it's still a challenge even for the veteran guys. It's something you have to figure out every day and [your] own personal way to do things. So, the biggest thing for me is to just to slow the game down and really just get in, locked in when I'm watching the game on the bench and stuff to stay in the game and not lose myself [with] other teammates or stuff that I don't need to be focusing on. So that's an effort there that you have to put in."
Moore knows nothing is guaranteed and he's going to have to play his way onto the Opening Day roster. "I'm not given anything," he said. "I definitely have to earn what I'm going to get. I'm just looking forward to it, looking forward to competing. I know we've brought in some great guys, and we'll see what happens. But I'm just ready to go."
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