Ask any average Pirates fan what they think of Jason Bay and stories will vary a little bit. Some feel he was phenomenal, others questioned his defense and his off year, some imagine his failures in pressure situations, but nearly everyone will agree Jason Bay was a fantastic story. A Pittsburgh Pirate the city was proud to know.
Bryan Morris is a great story too. It just took a while.
Whether the Pirates got enough for Jason Bay is an argument that will be settled very soon. Most fans wanted much, much more and it is a very valid point looking at the production Bay provided to the Red Sox. The Pirates haven’t seen much in return. At all.
The key piece of the deal was Morris, a 6’3″ right handed pitcher very few people had heard of at the time. Once Morris made it to the Bucs, there were skeptics. You shouldn’t be shocked by that. Pirates fans have always been disturbed by trades the club made of their ‘stars.’
It hasn’t been good
for Morris. The skeptics have reveled in the lackluster return Morris has provided the ballclub. He was hurt. There were nasty stories of disagreements with the Pirates development staff. A suspension. Injuries. Unprofessionalism. And then there were the results. Morris was awful. Especially for the Class A+ Lynchburg Hillcats.
Morris was 22 years old. Most fans thought it was time for this diamond in the rough to shine. He pitched for Lynchburg in the Carolina A+ League and frankly nothing shined. It was more like dull copper without a touch of Brasso in sight. He had a 5.57ERA in 72 innings with 34 walks and 32 strikeouts. He was “Zach Duke hittable” as he allowed 87 hits or 10.8H/per 9 innings.
But then when it mattered most to his team, Morris delivered. He delivered a pile of fastballs. Perhaps that explained the frustration with the development staff, but nonetheless, it was money time for Morris and the Hillcats were in the thick of winning a Carolina League title: [story PG Dejan]
"Morris was coming off a regular season in which he pitched poorly — 4-9, 5.57 ERA — and was suspended for berating an umpire, but he was chosen to pitch the decisive fifth game of the semifinal and came through with 6 2/3 innings and three runs to prevail.“It says a lot about the kid,” Forbes said. “And the most important thing was that he went through 6 2/3 on 68 pitches, and 50 were fastballs. We tried all season to stress the importance of fastball command if you want to start in the big leagues. That game was as big as they come at this level, and he stepped up.”"
This season it has all clicked for Morris, he started pitching very well.
Over and over and over again.
He started the season at Bradenton and in eight starts he dominated. He posted a 0.60ERA. He allowed just three earned runs in 44.2 innings while he struck out 40 batters and walked seven. Morris was promoted to Altoona where he continues to excel for the AA Curve.
Morris pitched a gem last night. Again. He went a season high seven innings and allowed just one run. TIGO has some nice video live from Altoona.
At the beginning of the month, Morris had the best ERA in all of pro baseball. His 0.81ERA disappeared when he lasted just four innings and gave up two runs. Two starts ago, Morris got roughed up and allowed 10 hits and eight runs. But that’s the bad part of the story.
This is one of the good parts of the story. When Portland had scored a run on him in the top of the first, Morris settled down and blanked the Sea Dogs the rest of the way to pitch 6+ innings of one run ball. [From AJ at Altoona Mirror]
"“I gave them a little bit of chin music,” said Morris, who knocked down a couple of Portland hitters in his 6 2/3 innings. “I don’t like doing that a whole lot, but whenever a team’s battling you pretty good, you’ve got to put a little fear in them. They started out awful comfortable in the box.”"
In his seven outings since coming to Altoona, Morris has a 1.99 ERA. His stuff is electric. His command is solid. The new mechanics have done wonders for his numbers. Morris has a 1.22WHIP, 3.35ERA, 42 strikeouts and 15 walks in 45.2 innings pitched.
We haven’t read about suspensions, failures on the mound, or other bullshit. We have only read about start after start of dominance. In spring training, Joe Kerrigan spent extra time ensuring everything was working well, when we saw pictures of Morris and Maholm in the same groups we paid close attention. Obviously, so did Morris. Has all of the voodoo worked? Gotta say it has. In a big way.
So ‘suddenly’ four years after being the first round (26th) pick of the LA Dodgers in the MLB Amateur Draft and then becoming the key piece of the Jason Bay/Manny Ramirez/Bryan Morris trade, this Bryan Morris story just may outshine that Jason Bay story.
Someday. It will take a ton of work. It might take a pile of bats heads, fish scales and other voodoo, but when it happens, it could be even sweeter because it would prove the development system of the Pirates got one right.