Morris will skip start, but showing great promise

Potomac Nationals pitcher A.J. Morris has recovered from getting hit by a line drive and pitched well in late July.

Now, the talented young hurler will skip a start because of a high inning count. Morris has been placed on the seven-day disabled list. Morris was supposed to start tonight but will be replaced by Adrian Alaniz in the rotation.

In three starts since July 15, the 23-year-old right-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA, allowing only two earned runs over 14 innings, seven hits, one walk and 14 strikeouts.

Morris spent four starts from mid-June to mid-July with the GCL Nationals in Florida to recover from a line drive to his calf muscle. It took a while for the swelling to go down, so Morris got his innings up and came back ready to go.

The Kansas State product was a fourth-round pick by the Nationals in 2009 and holds the distinction of finishing second to Stephen Strasburg for the Golden Spikes Award (given to the nation's top amateur baseball player).

I had a chance to catch up with Morris on his return to Woodbridge.

He said the key to his success has been confidence in his changeup, which he has been tinkering with all season.

"The changeup is something I have been really working on the last three weeks. I like to establish the changeup early in games, especially off the fastball. That is a big part of how my game will improve."

Morris just wants to get innings in and pitch games to gain experience. The coaches always talk about repeating the delivery, making the changeup look exactly like the fastball coming out of their hands.

"I have been really trying to see how the changeup is working and when to throw it. The pitch has been getting better with each game."

Morris worked a lot with Mark Grater, the pitching rehab coordinator, while in Florida.

Pitching coach Paul Menhart says the off-speed pitch is what they have been concentrating on, so Morris won't rely on just his fastball.

"That changeup is something he knows he has to get a good feel for. He showed that he is really starting to get it. He got three outs with the changeup in one inning, three ground ball outs.

"We have to get him off that fastball as best we can and that changeup is the best pitch to do it with."

Menhart says the big reason Morris came back ready to pitch is the coaches in Florida knowing what the plan was and implementing it with all the pitchers.

"(Pitching rehab coordinator) Mark Grater and (GCL pitching coach) Joel Sanchez are doing an unbelievable job with the rehab guys and the guys that are just starting off down there, letting them know how important the changeup is."

Morris pointed to working with Grater as extremely helpful in getting the changeup to the speed they needed to confuse the hitters.

"Once they get here they have a good feel for it and the results are going to continue to be in our favor with that pitch," Menhart concluded.

Menhart told me left-hander Daniel Rosenbaum also has an outstanding changeup and has been getting results in Potomac similar to what he was doing for Hagerstown.

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