The Pittsburgh Pirates have moved right handed pitcher Bryan Morris to the Altoona bullpen full time, first reported by Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror. Morris had struggled this year with injuries, and with poor performance out of the rotation, with a 6.04 ERA in 25.1 innings, along with a 17:16 K/BB ratio. The struggles were strange, as Morris threw 89 innings at the AA level in 2010, with a 4.25 ERA and an 84:31 K/BB ratio.
Morris has fared better in the bullpen, with a 2.03 ERA in 13.1 innings, along with an 11:1 K/BB ratio, including tonight’s outing: three innings with just one unearned run allowed on two hits, with no walks and four strikeouts. Morris pitched 9.1 innings out of the bullpen at the end of May/beginning of June, allowing just one earned run. He moved back to the rotation, and combined to give up 11 earned runs in eight innings over his next two starts, which led to this move.
I spoke with Kyle Stark about the move to the bullpen, and whether this would be a long term move for Morris, or if there was a chance for the right hander to make it back to the rotation one day.
“Bryan Morris will pitch out of the bullpen for now,” Stark said. “We feel like the best thing for his development is to get reps off the slope in games more often than more reps once every fifth day.”
As for the long term role:
“What role Bryan eventually fills at the major league level will ultimately be determined by him,” Stark said in regards to whether Morris could move back to the rotation one day. “Not all starters in the Big Leagues transitioned from the minor leagues as starters (meaning they can break into the Big Leagues in a reliever role).”
Two questions I had pertained to Morris’ spot on the 40-man roster, and whether this move would speed up his path to the majors. Morris will have one option remaining after the 2011 season, and a move to the bullpen could be seen as a move to get him in the majors sooner, rather than later. However, neither seems to be the case.
“The 40-man roster status did not play a role, but rather where he was at in the development process, what he had experienced, and where we felt like he needed to go next,” Stark said. “I don’t like to label anyone as a fast-track candidate. In theory, someone can transition to the Big Leagues quicker as a reliever than as a starter. We’ll see how things play out in Bryan’s specific situation.”
Morris wouldn’t be bad as a bullpen arm, as his mid-90s fastball makes him a potential late inning reliever. Obviously a big focus in this move will be placed on the Jason Bay trade. Morris is the final player from the deal in the organization, and yielding a relief pitcher as the long term return for the trade doesn’t look good. However, it’s not really news that the Bay trade doesn’t look good right now, and I’m not sure one starting pitching prospect, instead of a relief pitching prospect, could change the view of that deal at this point.