Pierce alum Elliot Morris was an All-NWAC first team selection in 2013.
Missions’ Morris developing full arsenal of pitches
By John Conniff, For the Express-News : April 16, 2015 : Updated: April 16, 2015 5:32pm
PEORIA, Ariz. — Missions pitcher Elliot Morris (Pierce College) has shown the ability to blow a mid-90s fastball past nearly everyone on the planet.
Finding other pitches to throw did not really register high on his daily list of things to do until well into the second year of his pro career. But intelligent minor-league pitchers soon realize that while blowing away the competition in the Midwest and California leagues is great, they are going to need something more to get to the major leagues.
Morris, 22, is one of the guys who figured it out.
The big right-hander (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) was one of four prospects traded to the San Diego Padres from the Los Angeles Angels for closer Huston Street at midseason last year. After the trade, he began to form a strong bond with High-A Lake Elsinore (California) Storm pitching coach Bronswell Patrick, who began the process of transitioning Morris from just a thrower into being a pitcher.
“He kind of let me go on my own for a while, and then once he had seen me a few times he started making suggestions,” Morris said last year at the end of his season in Lake Elsinore. “Then I made some and we both kind of found a place where we could work.”
One of the primary jobs of minor-league coaches is not only to provide instruction on baseball mechanics, but to work with the players to get them to assess the flaws in their own games and give them the tools to make improvements.
Before coming to the Padres’ organization, Morris had relied almost exclusively on throwing a four-seam fastball, which is the pitch that arrives with the most velocity but is also the one with least movement. He would mix in an occasional slider and an attempt at a change-up, but primarily it was straight “cheddar.”
“He’s an aggressive guy,” said Patrick about the reasons for Morris’ success despite throwing only one real pitch.
“He could locate his fastball and spin a slider up there once in a while, and with his stuff you are going to have success. But that is at the A-ball level, where guys swing at pitches 6 inches off of the plate and don’t have the patience of more advanced hitters you see in Double-A.”
Patrick was able to pick up a few mechanical flaws in his delivery, principally getting Morris to take more time with his load before throwing the ball. He also worked with the Washington state native on adding to his arsenal of pitches.
By getting him to focus bullpen sessions more on his change-up and introducing him to the two-seam fastball, which has more sink to right-handed hitters than a four-seamer, Patrick helped Morris begin to see better results.
“He did a really good job on picking up the two-seamer at the end,” Patrick said. “He worked on his change-up and got to a point where he was throwing his change-up with confidence during the game.”
In his eight starts with the Storm, Morris had a 3.56 ERA in 48 innings, a significant improvement from his 4.17 ERA with Inland Empire. While his strikeout total fell to 33 in Lake Elsinore, he also cut his walk rate by more than half, issuing only 11 free passes in the Padres system. That allowed him to go deeper into games; all but one of his starts went over six innings.
After an offseason of limited throwing, the big goal for Morris coming into the spring was to build on what he learned last year. For him, that meant becoming more consistent with his secondary pitches.
“Right now, it’s just about being comfortable and making sure that I have the correct mechanics,” Morris said. “I really like the success that I had last year with the two-seamer and change and hope to build on it this year.”
In San Antonio, he has joined other pitching prospects Colin Rea and Justin Hancock in what Padres’ farm director Sam Geaney said, “should be one of the organization’s better staffs that could really put it together.”
But to Patrick, who has been promoted to the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in El Paso, Morris’ success will not be a big surprise.
“He put things together once he came over with us,” Patrick said. “He just has to continue to progress on what we were working on and things are going to work out for him. But the main thing is that he is just a great all around kid.”
John Conniff is a freelance writer and a contributor to FoxSportsSanDiego.com.