As a team, the Rome Braves had a first-half South Atlantic League campaign to forget. They won only 18 of 70 outings, for a .257 winning percentage, and finished 29 games behind first-place Asheville in the Southern Division standings.
"Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong," said Rome manager Randy Ingle. "I don't think anyone wants to go through that again."
Though the first week of the second half has been different for the R-Braves, winners of five of their first six contests, the initial two-and-a-half months were anything but wasted time from a developmental standpoint. Pitcher Navery Moore serves as a classic example despite having as much success as any member of the Rome rotation.
"I think early on my mind-set was to come in and try to impress some people," Moore said. "I was able to step back from that and realize I needed simply to try to get better and work with my coaches by trusting what they were telling me. When I started doing that, I stopped worrying so much about the results and started focusing on getting better from both a physical and a pitching standpoint."
Drafted out of Vanderbilt by the Atlanta Braves in the 14th round in 2011, Moore did not make his professional debut until this season after coming to terms at the signing deadline last August. Primarily a reliever in college, he opened the slate in the rotation and wound up splitting his first six decisions while posting a 3.90 ERA in the first half. Moore allowed only one earned run in 16 1/3 innings during his three victories, yet surrendered a combined 13 earned runs in seven frames in two of his three setbacks.
After making 11 straight starts since pitching out of the bullpen in his first two outings of the season, Moore worked in relief again in the SAL All-Star Game as well as during his initial appearance of the second half. Many scouts project Moore to develop into a setup man or possibly a closer at higher levels, but the right-hander says his focus currently is centered on fine-tuning his overall game.
"Right now I just need to get innings," Moore said. "I didn't throw much as a freshman or sophomore in college because we had such a deep team. Even as a junior, I only threw 30 innings, so I'm working on staying out there, getting experience and learning every time I pitch. As a starter or a long reliever, I'm getting the opportunity to work on all of my pitches."
Moore underwent Tommy John surgery during his junior year of high school in Franklin, Tenn., and saw limited activity on the mound as a senior. That stretch stunted Moore's development and his feel for pitching, which carried over to Vanderbilt, where he worked only 13 innings in his first two seasons. He made the most of his opportunity as a junior by establishing the school record with 11 saves, which lead to his above-slot signing with the Braves at the 2011 Draft signing deadline.
He possesses an above-average fastball in the 92-95 mph range along with a solid slider and changeup. Moore is working on mixing in a curveball to give hitters something else to think about. Thus far, the results have been impressive as Moore has allowed only 56 hits in his first 65 1/3 innings and has limited opponents to a .230 average. Although he knows he needs to limit his walks -- he's issued 30 -- his primary goal is to attack batters while working the edges of the strike zone and hitting his spots, which will limit his bases on balls and make him more effective as he makes the climb up the organizational ladder.
"I couldn't be happier with where I am," Moore said. "We had a rough first half and we struggled, but I think the biggest thing is rebounding and improving. They say it's not how you start but how you finish, and that's the way everyone in our clubhouse is approaching this season. We went out with a good mind-set every day in the first half and ran into some bad luck at times, but we've played much better so far in the second half. Everyone has things they're working on, and I believe we're all going to see greater results over the rest of the year."
Asheville ailing: After winning the first-half crown in the Southern Division, the Asheville Tourists are facing some challenges due to the loss of OF Delta Cleary Jr., who was promoted to Class Advanced A Modesto, and three All-Star members in the middle of the lineup. 1B Harold Riggins (knee), OF/1B Tyler Massey (oblique) and 2B Sam Mede (ankle) were placed on the disabled list on June 25 with their various injuries.
Skole smokin': Hagerstown's Matt Skole hit a three-run blast for his league-leading 18th home run in the seventh inning Wednesday to lead the Suns to a come-from-behind, 8-4 win over Delmarva. Skole has homered in four of his last six games, including three straight against Lakewood on June 22-24.
Great Grasshoppers! Greensboro scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game, then plated four in the bottom of the 13th to win, 12-11, over Lexington on June 25. The teams combined for 41 hits, including 23 by the Grasshoppers, who left 18 runners on base. The Legends led, 7-2, in the bottom of the seventh before Greensboro started its rally.