AT&T PARK — Six Septembers ago, a 22-year-old Matt Moore found himself sitting in a hotel room — his Triple-A season having just come to a close — when his phone buzzed.
Summoned to the Tampa Bay Rays, the left-hander was joining a team that was about to barrel past the Boston Red Sox and secure the American League Wild Card after opening the month nine games back of its divisional neighbor.
“There’s so many different emotions going on,” Moore said, recalling his major-league arrival. “You’re excited. You’re nervous. It’s a whole new world.”
Moore, who was MiLB.com’s 2011 Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year, responded to his promotion by allowing three runs in a trio of regular season outings before authoring seven shutout innings in an AL Division Series start.
“I think getting injected into the playoff picture right there was something that I think is irreplaceable because I was 22 and I was already getting a taste of what some guys never really get a taste of — the postseason, just playing in meaningful games in September,” Moore said.
Landing on a team managed by Joe Maddon and on a pitching staff anchored by David Price and James Shields, the minor league phenom turned September sparkplug aimed to blend in.
“I just tried to play it like most things up to that point in my life. ‘Be seen, not heard’ type of stuff,” Moore explained. “In those circles, there’s more to be learned with your mouth shut than with your mouth open.”
That was the same lesson Ty Blach learned last September.
“You’re just trying to soak it all in and do whatever you can to help the team,” Blach said.
Blach debuted Sept. 5 of last season, delivering three shutout innings against the Colorado Rockies — his hometown club — in front of friends and family.
“I was able to be with several of my teammates who I’d come up through the minor leagues with,” Blach said, remembering the moment he got the call. “And they’d all been to the big leagues, so to be around them when they told me was pretty cool.”
Nicknamed “The Preacher,” Blach is unfailingly polite, making him the ideal September call-up. Moore also knew how to assume the part of the deferential youngster, as he’d grown up playing on teams with his older brother.
With the Rays, Maddon operated the kind of clubhouse where players loved showing up to work.
“There was nobody there that gave you a hard time [or] made your job harder than it needed to be,” Moore said.
The young lefty trailed around Price and Shields, amazed by how early they’d arrive at the park, learning how to be a pro.
“In my opinion, it’s probably what a rookie should do,” Moore said. “It makes the most sense.
Moore and Blach’s boss, Bruce Bochy, never lived through the baseball crash course that is a September call-up.
“I’d never thought of it until you mentioned it,” Bochy said when asked before a recent game. “But no.”
In 1978, the Houston Astros called up a 23-year-old Bochy directly from Double-A. He’d remain in the majors for three years.
“I was fortunate, I guess,” Bochy said. “I didn’t have to wait until that deadline, so to speak, the first of September, to know if I was going to get called up or not.”
The group of call-ups that Bochy will be shepherding this month likely won’t feature any fresh faces.
The first wave of promotions consists of retreads Derek Law, Steven Okert, Tim Federowicz and Orlando Calixte.
More minor leaguers will arrive when the Triple-A season ends on Monday, but the second installment is unlikely to feature marquee prospects.
Season-ending injuries have removed Tyler Beede and Christian Arroyo — the top pitcher and position player, respectively — while a PED ban put an early end to the season of starter Joan Gregorio, a Triple-A breakout.
Chris Shaw, a 2015 first-round slugger, is caught in roster purgatory. If the Giants add him to the 40-man roster now — a year before he has to be protected — it will limit the front office’s ability to guard other prospects from getting poached in the Rule 5 draft.
Regardless, the call-ups who do crowd into the clubhouse at Third and King will savor the experience — even if sticking around for the playoffs is out of the picture.
Moore called September 2011 one of the most fun months of his baseball career. Blach is still less than a year removed from his September debut.
“It’s definitely special,” Blach said. “Just knowing that all that hard work that they put in paid off to get here.”Bruce Bochychris shawChristian ArroyoMatt MooreMLBSan Francisco Giantsty blachTyler Beede