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Morris resumes ascent to Bucs' rotation

Pirates/MLB Videos

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

BRADENTON, Fla. — Bryan Morris has a lousy golf game. And he wants it to stay that way.

Morris spent the summer of 2007 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the Los Angeles Dodgers' training facility in Vero Beach, Fla. After he'd finish his morning workout in the weight room, Morris was unable to do any work on a pitcher's mound.

To fill his otherwise boring afternoons, Morris took up golf.

"I'm not very good at it, but it killed a lot of time," Morris said Tuesday, after a workout at the Pirates' minor-league camp. "I'd go three or four times a week. I'm still not good at it."

Morris paused and laughed.

"I'd like it if I didn't get out on the golf course very often this year."

The Pirates hope so, too.

Morris was part of the three-team deadline trade last year that sent outfielder Jason Bay to Boston. The Pirates received Morris and Andy LaRoche from the Dodgers and Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss from the Red Sox.

"When I got the phone call and they told me I was traded, the first thing that went through my mind was, 'Wow,' " Morris said.

Morris never expected to be dealt, at least not so soon. He was the Dodgers' first-round draft pick in 2006. A few months later, the right-hander blew out his elbow and had reconstructive surgery.

Then, just four months into his comeback season, Morris was traded. He figured it was a swap of minor-league prospects.

"When I asked who I was traded for, they said, 'You're in a three-way trade with Manny (Ramirez) and Jason Bay,' " Morris said. "My jaw dropped. At this point in my career, I wouldn't compare myself to big names like that.

"At first, I was shocked. After it sank in, I told myself this could be a really good opportunity."

Before the trade, Morris was 2-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 17 starts for the Dodgers' Great Lakes Single-A team. The Pirates sent him to low-A Hickory, where he went 0-2 with a 5.02 ERA in three starts. He was shut down early because of shoulder tendinitis.

"It got tired," Morris said. "It being my first season back (after surgery), my arm wasn't in shape, and my body wasn't in shape, compared to what it is now."

Morris' shoulder made a full recovery. In October, he had surgery to repair a ligament in his right big toe. He sustained the injury while pitching for Great Lakes, but he kept it hidden and played through the pain.

"I probably made 12 to 14 starts with my toe injured," Morris said. "I probably should've shut it down when I first got hurt. But I'm the kind of guy, after having that year off, I wasn't about to sit down again. I wanted to be on the field."

Management monitored Morris throughout the offseason, including minicamps at Pirate City in December and January.

"That last month and a half at home (before spring training), I busted my tail, running every day," Morris said.

Morris is full-go during his workouts and has erased any doubts about his readiness for Opening Day. His fastball is up around 93 mph, and he hopes to amp it up a bit more this summer.

"This is the healthiest he's been in a couple of years, between the arm and the toe," Pirates farm director Kyle Stark said. "He'll start the year at (high-A) Lynchburg. We want him to have some success there and then get him on his way."

Stark expects Morris to be pitching for Double-A Altoona by season's end. Morris, who'll turn 22 in less than two weeks, is eager to be there — or anywhere, really, except the golf course.

Four for the future

Assessing the players the Pirates got in the Jason Bay trade:

Player, Position: Outlook

Andy LaRoche, 3B: Starter, as long as he can hold the job

Brandon Moss, OF: Backup once Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata arrive

Craig Hansen, RP: Power arm in bullpen; possible closer someday

Bryan Morris, SP: Will start this year at Class A; could be in the majors by 2011

Additional Information:

Today's game

Pirates vs. Blue Jays

1:05 p.m. · Dunedin Stadium, Dunedin, Fla.

Radio/TV: None

Pirates probable starter: LHP Paul Maholm

Blue Jays probable starter: RHP Roy Halladay




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