FRED GOODALL, AP Baseball Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Matt Moore has parlayed a brief, impressive major league debut into a long-term contract with the TampaBay Rays.

The young left-hander agreed Friday to a deal that guarantees him $14 million over five years. It includes club options that could more than double the value over eight seasons.

The budget-minded Rays have made the playoffs three of the past four years and are counting on Moore to be part of a talented pitching rotation that will enable them to remain competitive with the big-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the AL East, arguably baseball’s toughest division.

The deal announced at Tropicana Field contains club options for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons that could make it worth about $39.75 million over eight years.

“Matt was signed and developed in this organization,” Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. ” And as we’ve said many times before, for us to have any chance of sustaining this level of success, it’s very important for us to develop championship-caliber players and people like Matt.”

The hard-throwing 22-year-old made his big league debut for the Rays in mid-September, going 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in three appearances, including one start.

Moore started Game 1 of TampaBay’s AL Division Series against Texas, working seven shutout innings to beat the Rangers and become the youngest pitcher to start and win a team’s first game of the postseason. He began the 2010 season at Double-A Montgomery was a combined 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA in 27 starts with Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.

Friedman said the club began discussions on a contract “right at the end of the season and really started ramping up in the last two or three weeks.”

Moore was a little surprised the Rays approached him about a long-term deal at this stage in his career. In 2008, the Rays took a similar approach in giving third baseman Evan Longoria a multi-year contract before he had spent much time in the majors.

“There’s not very much of a case to be built except for what I’ve done in the lower levels in the minor leagues,” said Moore, who allowed three earned runs, struck out 15 and walked three in 9 1-3 innings over three regular-season appearances.

“I understand the potential and all that is there, and the hype,” the left-hander added. “I had a great time when I was here last year. And like Andrew said, they drafted me in 2007 and this is the only place I’ve known. I’m looking forward to calling it home for the next eight years. … I feel like the risk is being shared on both ends. I’m happy where we are.”

Barring a trade, the Rays will enter spring training with six talented young starters, with Moore joining a rotation currently comprised of David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann.

Friedman said the team has no plans to begin next season with a six-man rotation, but did not speculate on how the situation will play out, including whether one member of last season’s rotation could wind up in the bullpen.

“This contract doesn’t specifically answer that question,” Friedman said. “We’re fortunate in that we have more than five pitchers who are more than capable of pitching in the American League East. There’s a lot more of the winter to go. My guess is it’ll take until we get into spring to really answer those questions.”

In the meantime, the Rays are excited to have Moore locked up long-term.

“We’ve already seen glimpses of his talent, but more than that he’s shown he has the mettle to compete in the American League East,” Friedman said. “It’s a difficult environment. … He’s gotten a lot of experience quickly, but we’re all excited to see what Matt can do over the long term.”


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


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