Feb 21, 2014, 4:02 PM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Tyler Moore played first base at Mississippi State. He played first base as he ascended through the Nationals’ farm system. And then, once he arrived in the big leagues two years ago, the young slugger found himself in a most uncomfortable position: left field.
With Adam LaRoche enjoying a Silver Slugger/Gold Glove season at first base, and with Michael Morse on the disabled list, the Nationals were desperate to get any kind of production out of their left fielders. Moore did produce at the plate as a rookie, but his glovework was understandably suspect.
Playing time was sparse for Moore last season, no matter the position, but most of the time he did get was back in left field, especially while Bryce Harper was battling injuries.
So it’s easy to understand why the 27-year-old is thrilled to be spending the vast majority of his time this spring back in a familiar spot in the infield.
“That’s just kind of where I feel at home the most,” he said. “First has always been my No. 1 position. I just feel comfortable over there. Glad to be over there back with Rochie and hopefully I’ll slide in the outfield here soon and get some reps out there. … It feels great to have one stress-free spot over there.”
Moore’s comfort level at first base is obvious even to the untrained eye. During defensive drills Friday morning, he looked particularly sharp. His footwork was crisp. His hands were soft. His throws were on-target.
Moore said he focuses on all of those skills when positioned at first base, but his biggest key there is a more generic concept.
“Mostly (being) under control,” he said. “You’ve got to scoop a ball in the dirt, keep the ball in front of you and on some of those bunt plays, just make sure your feet are under control. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
No, he’s not going to be LaRoche out there, and he may never be. But Moore’s defensive work at first base should serve as a reminder to the Nationals that he can be a highly capable fill-in, especially if he can bounce back from a difficult season at the plate.
“I feel like last year was a tough year for myself and this team,” he said. “And even though myself and this team finished strong last year, I feel like I can do a lot more than that and help out a lot more than that.”
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