Nyjer Morgan: Back where he belongs
Returning to the major leagues, Morgan is proving already he belongs in Cleveland
Few people get to travel the world.
For center fielder Nyjer Morgan, he's had to endure just that in order to keep his big league career alive.
Signed to a minor league deal this offseason with an invite to spring training, Morgan has quickly impressed Cleveland with his speed, bat and unique veteran presence.
“He’s been on base more than half the time, that’s the biggest thing,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
A career .280 hitter through six years in the major leagues, Morgan has showed promise already, hitting .389 (7-for-18) with four RBI in seven games. Currently leading the Tribe with a .520 on-base percentage, the left-handed hitter has given the top of the lineup an energy boost with Michael Bourn sidelined by injury.
“That’s the only way I know how to play is with energy,” Morgan said. “It feels good just to be in this position.”
Drafted by Pittsburgh as a 33rd round pick in 2002, he played for Washington before making a name for himself in Milwaukee during their postseason run in 2011. Also known for his crazy antics through his other identity and nickname Tony Plush, Morgan has just been his reserved self so far in his time with his new team.
“I’m trying to stay humble,” he said. I’m trying to keep my buddy T-Plush from coming back from on vacation….he’s around,” Morgan said jokingly. “This is probably one of the best groups I’ve played with."
Since coming to Cleveland, the 33-year-old has been on a mission, hoping to prove he and Plush are worthy of another year in the major leagues.
That wasn't the case at this time one season ago.
Left unclaimed on the free agent market in 2013, Morgan signed with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of the Japan Nippon Professional League. He didn't dissapoint, hitting .294 with 11 homers in 108 games for the BayStars.
With Bourn dealing with injuies last year and at the start of spring training, the Tribe decided to take a chance on the veteran hitter.
“We thought in the short term having him leadoff with his energy and the ability to change the game with his legs might payoff for us, and it has,” Francona said. ”He had a really good camp, I just didn’t know if we’d have a spot for him.”
Little did the team know they would have a spot for him, right at the top of their lineup as Bourn landed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury to start the regular season.
"He's doing a great job of setting the table," Michael Brantley said. "You see the hustle and drive that he puts into every at-bat. He keeps it light in the dugout, always cheering for every player and motivating every guy."
Sometimes all it takes is another chance and Morgan is thankful for his new opportunity with his new club.
"This is probably the most comfortable I've felt in my six years in the bigs," he said. "I know myself, I know what I'm capable of doing. I'm not trying to get ahead of myself and not trying to be somebody I'm not. I know the type of player I am."
Nobody knows what the future holds once Bourn returns, but for now, he has found another place in the world to call home.
"It's not in my hands," Morgan said. "The only thing I can do is take care of my little part and do what I can for this team and the organization. Whatever role they want me to do, I'm all for it."
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think Tito can find a way to get both Bourn and Morgan bats. Provided Morgan keeps doing what he is doing. We didn't see it last year but Bourn is a great base stealer with a great glove and a solid lead off guy. No reason both can't stay although that means Giambi is out of a position so it is a difficult situation. For now I wouldn't mind seeing Bourn batting 9th. Those two back to back could really set things up very nice.
What do you say Santana? Can you play short stop?
The man LOVES to ball!!!