Rays turn to rookie Matt Moore for ALDS Game 1 start

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Rays manager Joe Maddon is going all-in.

According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, the bespectacled skipper announced late Thursday evening that rookie left-hander Matt Moore will take the mound Friday in Texas for Game 1 of the Rays’ ALDS matchup with the Rangers.

James Shields probably would have been Maddon’s preferred option for Friday’s series opener, but the righty hurled 8 2/3 tough innings Monday against New York and the Rays want to keep him on normal rest. Shields will pitch Game 2 on Saturday night.

Moore, widely regarded as baseball’s top pitching prospect, has posted a 2.89 ERA and 15/3 K/BB ratio in 9 1/3 innings since earning a promotion to the major leagues just two weeks ago. The 22-year-old lefty fanned 11 Yankees hitters over five scoreless innings last week during the first start of his major league career.

It’ll be a mighty test for Moore — one that spawned real mental issues for a southpaw with similar hype back in the 2000 NLDS — but Maddon is simply putting his best foot forward. He’s trusting the talent. And we can’t wait to see how the youngster responds under the bright lights of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.

Report: Phillies making Maikel Franco available in trade discussions

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Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Phillies are making third baseman Maikel Franco “more than available” in trade discussions.

Franco, 24, is having an abysmal season after showing promise in 2015 and ’16. Through 289 plate appearances, he’s hitting .221/.280/.365 with nine home runs and 37 RBI. His hitting has tanked and his already below-average defense hasn’t shown any improvement.

It’s a bit surprising that the Phillies would be so eager to move Franco with his value about as low as it can go. Franco is also under control of the rebuilding Phillies through the 2021 season, so the team doesn’t have to rush into moving him. He will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the season.

Furthermore, the Phillies don’t have an immediate replacement for Franco at third base. Andres Blanco would likely get everyday starts at the hot corner in the short-term, but as far as prospects go, there are no third baseman banging down the door. If the Phillies were to trade Franco, it would likely have to be in return for a young, talented third baseman who will be under team control for several more years.