Prospect Notebook: Morris Working On Cutter, Owens Looks Crisp
Bryan Morris threw two innings today at Pirate City, and flashed a new pitch in the process. Morris throws a mid-90s fastball, and also flashes a good curveball, but today while watching him it appeared that he was also throwing a slider.
I spoke with Morris afterwards, who mentioned that the pitch was a cutter. The pitch was a variation of a pitch Morris worked on last year, which was more of a slider. This year Morris has been trying to throw the pitch harder, making it sharper.
The right-hander struggled with the pitch in the first inning, throwing it low-and-away and in the dirt against right-handed hitters.
“Just a little bit of trying to make it cut, rather than throwing it the way you’re supposed to throw it, and that’s what happens,” Morris said about his struggles with the pitch in the first inning today.
The relief pitcher was also working on some delivery changes, with some adjustments to his set up and hand placement. Today was his first game with the new adjustments. He was wild in the first inning, mostly due to opening his front shoulder up too soon and trying to force the cutter. The second inning was better than the first, with Morris mixing in some change-ups. He’s also made some adjustments to that pitch, using a new grip.
After the outing, Morris said that the results were better than his expectations, considering all the new changes.
“For the most part the cutter’s been a good pitch for me this spring, so hopefully today was a fluke and we’ll get back to work with it,” Morris said.
RUDY OWENS LOOKS MORE CRISP
The Pirates sent over Tony Watson and Jason Grilli to get some work, obviously getting each reliever to the point where they can pitch on back-to-back days. After their innings of work, Rudy Owens and Brandon Cumpton made their regular starts, each going four innings.
Owens was hit around a bit, but limited the damage, with one earned run on five hits in four innings, along with two walks and three strikeouts. He touched 92 with his fastball at least once, although he was mostly in the 88-90 range. The left-hander threw 61 pitches, with 41 for strikes.
I spoke with an American League scout today who said that Owens’ pitches look more crisp this year than they did last year. He didn’t think that any of the pitches stood out as plus pitches, but added that a left-hander could get by without a plus pitch.
**Brandon Cumpton got off to a good start today, with a seven pitch inning in his first frame, including two strikeouts that consisted of three straight fastballs. His overall stat line was good, with one run allowed on three hits in four innings, with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw 48 pitches with 29 for strikes. The right-hander was mostly 92-93 MPH with his fastball.
**One of the best tools Brock Holt has is his speed. I saw that today on the field while he was playing shortstop. On a ball hit slowly up the middle, Holt ranged to the second base side of the bag, in front of the bag, and made a strong running throw to make the play.
**Speaking of speed, Candon Myles is fast. Wilbur watched him beat out an infield single, steal second base, then steal third when the pitcher wasn’t paying attention on the mound. Later I saw him hit a triple and show off Andrew McCutchen first-to-third running, where he just kind of glided around the bases. The triple was on a fly to center, which went beyond the center fielder, in front of the 410 sign. Myles didn’t really start running until the ball dropped in, and easily made it to third safely. Apart from his speed, he accelerates very well. The key will be his hitting. He’s a weapon on the bases. He just needs to get on the bases.
**Tony Sanchez hit a double to the right field wall today. The same scout I spoke with about Owens mentioned that Sanchez looks improved over last year.
**Starling Marte hasn’t stopped hitting. Today he hit a triple off the left-center fence.
**Jeff Clement has hit very well at Pirate City this Spring, crushing fastballs. Today he hit a homer to right-center, over the 370 sign. Power was never really his problem though. His problem is that his walk rate never translated over to the majors to help supplement his very low average.
**Tim Wood pitched again today, and showed some good stuff. He was around 93 MPH with his fastball, a number that is lower than what he’s put up in the past. He also flashed a sharp 87 MPH slider in an easy inning of work. Wood has great stuff, and you’ve got to wonder why it doesn’t translate over to the majors. The pitcher I’ve seen in Pirate City this week and the pitcher that I got reports on from Indianapolis last year is a totally different pitcher than the guy we saw briefly in Pittsburgh. And that’s not just because the majors are harder than Triple-A. It’s almost like his stuff disappeared once he arrived in the majors.