Morris gets a thorough look

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Pitcher has `definitely made a leap' in opinion of team VP Flanagan

March 25, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Cory Morris figured his first stay at major league spring training camp wouldn't be long. So while the experience lasted, Morris simply wanted to prepare for his minor league season, learn a few things from pitching coach Leo Mazzone and hopefully open a few eyes in the organization.

But as the Orioles clubhouse has thinned out considerably over the past couple of days with players getting released outright or heading to the organization's minor league facility, Morris is still here. Once placed in the cramped part of the clubhouse where several of the players share lockers, Morris now dresses every day near the Orioles bullpen regulars.

"At this point, I didn't think I'd be here right now," said Morris. "It's been a great experience no matter what happens."

Morris arrived in Fort Lauderdale in February as a relative unknown in the organization. Until last year, the 15th- round pick in the 2001 draft had done nothing to distinguish himself in the Orioles system. The 26-year-old right-hander went just 1-10 with a 6.32 ERA for Single-A Frederick in 2002 and was 3-6 with 5.98 ERA in 12 appearances for Bowie in 2004.

But an 8-5 2005 season for Double-A Bowie which included a 3.03 ERA (fourth best in the Eastern League), and 159 strikeouts in 142 2/3 innings (second best in Eastern League) earned him a spring-training invitation. And all he's done is become one of the Orioles' nicest surprises this spring with a 2.70 ERA and five strikeouts in 10 innings of work.

"Some guys come into camp and make a leap, and he's definitely made a leap," said Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan. "He's gotten on our radar."

Said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo: "He's been aggressive. He attacks the strike zone. His breaking ball is getting better. He's shown me that he's not afraid to throw strikes and he attacks the hitters."

Morris, a native Texan, has been a starter for his entire minor league career. However, the Orioles have spots open in the bullpen - not the rotation - and Morris has at least pitched himself into contention for consideration, possibly in the long relief role.

"I am going to be excited no matter what happens," Morris said. "I really have learned a lot from being here."

BC connection

Flanagan and Orioles vice president Jim Duquette have found more common ground in rooting for the Boston College basketball team in the NCAA tournament.

As a freshman basketball player at the University of Massachusetts, Flanagan played against the varsity team, which included NBA great Julius Erving, Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Al Skinner, the current coach at Boston College.

Duquette's younger brother, Pat, 35, is an assistant on Skinner's staff and has been at Boston College the past nine years as either an administrative assistant or assistant coach. Both Flanagan and Duquette planned to leave Fort Lauderdale Stadium in time to watch the Eagles play Villanova last night in a Sweet 16 game.

"We have a little regimen right now," Jim Duquette said. "Every time I called before the games, they have won. I called him through the ACC tournament, and then I forgot to call him before the finals and they lost. Even if it is a message, I'll leave him one."

Cabrera speeds up

Mazzone and Daniel Cabrera were out on one of the side mounds at Fort Lauderdale Stadium about three hours before the first pitch of the Orioles' 2-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox, working on the right-hander's windup.

Mazzone said that he was trying to get the 6-foot-7, 24-year-old to speed up his delivery to the plate, rather than being so deliberate and mechanical.

"He is such a large man and you don't want to give [his windup] time to fall apart," Mazzone said. "You want to keep the cadence coordinated because the sky is the limit on this guy."

Mazzone said that he is pleased with the rapport he has developed in a short time with all of the Orioles starters, including Erik Bedard, who has admitted in the past that it takes awhile for him to develop a trusting relationship with coaches.

"They are being treated like men," Mazzone said. "They are suggesting things to me. We are exchanging ideas. That's how it works. Bedard has been great. You exchange ideas and you work off that. It hasn't been difficult at all."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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