Moore getting ready for one more chance

By Andrew Simon

WASHINGTON – Tyler Moore is well aware that this spring could be his last chance to stick with the Nationals, and he’s hoping that an offseason that included a productive stint in the Dominican Winter League will help his cause.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old first baseman/outfielder played a major part in the Nats’ 2012 division title run as a rookie, hitting 10 homers with an .840 OPS in 75 games, but has struggled over the past two years. Going back and forth between starting at Triple-A and mostly coming off the bench in the Majors, he’s produced eight homers and a .635 OPS over 105 games for Washington.

What’s forcing the issue this spring is that Moore is out of Minor League options. That means the Nats can’t send him down without passing him through waivers, which would give the other 29 teams a chance to claim him.

“This year’s kind of a crucial year for me, and I’m just ready for an opportunity,” Moore said. “I’m going to come in and help this team win, and we’ll see what happens.

“I’m out of options, and obviously they have to make a decision, and I feel like I can play for this team.”

Moore played 22 games in the Dominican Republic earlier this offseason with Toros del Este, hitting .299/.429/.584 with six homers. He found the experience valuable, he said, getting extra at-bats against quality pitching and working on his discipline at the plate.  It’s something he expects to have him more prepared for Spring Training than in years past.

“I really do, because I really hadn’t put the bat down since I got done playing,” Moore said. “Usually I put the bat down for three months and then pick it back up, but I just hit the other day. I feel good. Hopefully it continues on to the season.”

Still, Moore’s potential role is murky, even with first baseman Adam LaRoche leaving as a free agent. The outfield is full, and Ryan Zimmerman is expected to get the bulk of the playing time at first. Unlike LaRoche, Zimmerman is right-handed, meaning Moore wouldn’t fit as a platoon partner, and the Nats still could look to add to their bench through free agency.

Barring injuries, Moore likely would be looking at a pinch-hitting-heavy role, or he could get squeezed off the roster and find an opportunity somewhere else. But for now, he’s hoping things can work out in Washington.

“I feel like I need to come in and have a good consistent spring and play good baseball, and hopefully they’ll give me the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

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