Moore making adjustment from pen to starting rotation

Published 11:42 am Thursday, February 15, 2024

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Catcher Devin Burkes understands what pitcher Mason Moore means to the Kentucky baseball team.

“He is the man. He just has to keep being who he is and do what he does best,” said Burkes.

Mason was an elite relief pitcher for Kentucky last season who is transitioning to a starting pitcher this season. He was named a third-team preseason All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

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He threw 15 scoreless innings in the NCAA Tournament last season and finished the year 4-1 with a 1.80 earned run average in 55 innings and allowed just 31 hits. He had four saves. He allowed just two runs over his final 10 outings (28 innings) and held eventual national champion LSU to no runs on two hits in 4 1/3 innings in the Super Regional.

Moore, a Rowan County High School standout, is 5-1 in his career with a 3.04 ERA in 77 innings and his 5.07 hits allowed per nine innings is the best in school history for pitchers with at least 75 innings pitched.

Moore talked about Kentucky’s season, which opens Feb. 16, his new role and more during an interview at UK’s Media Day.


Question: Is it a big deal to have in-state players on the team who are contributors to the team’s success?

Moore: “Having family close by helps and they bring their own energy. They like to embarrass me at times with their stuff but being a Kentuckian and getting to represent your state is great and a real honor to do that. I think you need to have a couple of Kentucky guys in there just to show the younger athletes that it is possible to come from a small town and play at a SEC level.”


Question: Do you grow up a Kentucky fan?

Moore: “Yes, UK was my dream school. Once I finally committed here, it was a dream come true. Believe it or not, I was not even trying to go to college for baseball. Until my freshman year I wanted to go for basketball. I started growing and throwing hard out of nowhere my freshman year and I talked to my dad and, obviously, I made the right decision. But I had no intention early of playing college baseball.”


Question: Was it a hard decision to come back for another year instead of trying to start a professional career?

Moore: “It was a tough decision. I talked to a lot of family and teammates about it. Me coming back, I know I made the right decision. Getting to do this for another year is why I chose to come back and getting to make memories with these guys is a once in a lifetime.”


Question: What is the difference moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation?

Moore: “Being a reliever last year I threw before a game, would sit there for two hours and then all of a sudden get sent to the bullpen and get about four minutes to warm up, then another five pitches and you are out there. The biggest thing for me is trying to figure out my routine. I still haven’t got it all the way. I am getting stronger. Throwing with Travis (Smith) and asking him questions has helped me because he was a starter last year.”


Question: Is there a mental transition as well as physical transition to becoming a starter?

Moore: “There is but I am trying not to think too much about the mental part and trying to be me. I am more of a relaxed guy and stay in the moment. I try not to lock in too much so I am not myself.”


Question: Any worries about being a starter after being so good as a reliever?

Moore: “No. At the end of the year last year I was throwing three or four innings at a time. Obviously, it is different but I am confident in what I have done and the coaches have the confidence for me to go out there and be a starter.”


Question: As a starter you need more than one pitch working, so how are your secondary pitches right now?

Moore: “For my secondary I rely mostly on my changeup. I throw that whenever I want to because I am the most comfortable with it and have worked on that since high school. As a reliever, you just need that one secondary pitch because you go one or two innings. But as a starter going five, six or seven innings if you have three or four pitches it will help out a lot.”


Question: Did you want to be a starter?

Moore: “Yes it was a goal of mine ever since I got here. I had a chance last year and didn’t earn it. I am working my way into that starting role and last year helped me a lot.”


Question: Do you ever think about that amazing postseason streak you had?

Moore: “I just kind of put it out of my mind. This is a new year. Last year was a great opportunity for me. I had 14 innings pitched with no runs, but it is in the past.”


Question: Are you physically stronger, heavier than last year?

Moore: “Yes. I came in here about 180 pounds but I played basketball in high school so it was hard to keep weight on. Putting on weight has helped me a lot and I can go longer in games.”