Twins see talkative Jack Morris as workhorse who won't hesitate to complain

February 06, 1991|By Jim Caple | Jim Caple,Knight-Ridder

MINNEAPOLIS -- This is not 43-year-old Steve Carlton shuffling through one more town with a tired slider and a Code of Silence. And this is not 43-year-old Joe Niekro showing how to get by with emery boards.

Jack Morris still can pitch. What's more important, he can pitch a lot of innings.

The Twins, who yesterday signed free agent Morris to a one-year contract worth $3 million with options for 1992 and 1993 at $2 million a season, haven't had a pitcher throw 200 innings since Frank Viola won the Cy Young Award. Morris has pitched at least 235 innings in eight of the last nine seasons. The returning Twins starters pitched 12 complete games last season. Morris pitched 11 by himself.

"We needed a guy who can crank out a couple hundred innings for us," an upbeat Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly said in his Metrodome office yesterday. "Guys like Roger Clemens in Boston, Dave Stewart and Bob Welch in Oakland, Nolan Ryan in Texas. Guys who you can count on to pitch 200 innings."

At age 35 -- he'll turn 36 in May -- Morris is likely past his prime. He hasn't had a winning season or an earned run average below 4.50 since 1988. But his second half last season -- 9-9, 3.94 ERA, two shutouts, one one-hitter -- showed he still can pitch effectively.

He'll provide consistency throughout the dugout. He'll give the bullpen needed rest. The whole staff will improve. Suddenly the rotation is Morris, Kevin Tapani, Scott Erickson, Allan Anderson and Mark Guthrie or David West and that sounds pretty good. Especially with Steve Bedrosian and Rick Aguilera closing things out.

"They're going to feel, this guy is going to be the guy, the pressure's going to be on him," Kelly said. "It'll be, 'Jack's here, he can take it.' We had those kind of guys for a while. We had Frankie and Bert [Blyleven]. But we haven't had those guys for a year and a half and it's hurt us. We thought maybe Anderson could do that for us."

But Anderson couldn't handle the pressure of being No. 1 and struggled to a 3-12 start.

Morris will also give the Twins something else -- someone who won't hesitate to complain if things aren't going right. "He's not very tolerant of people who don't go about their business in the proper way," said ex-Tigers GM Bill Lajoie.

Morris wasn't the only pitcher who bettered himself yesterday. Bruce Hurst, the most highly sought free agent two winters ago, got an extension from San Diego through 1993 for $6.4 million.

Three players in arbitration agreed to contracts, reducing the remaining players to 79. Left-hander Norm Charlton, who made $175,000 last year, tripled his salary when he settled with the Reds at $625,000. Center fielder Daryl Boston and the New York Mets settled at $750,000, a raise of $440,000.

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