No panic in Arizona bullpen

Arizona Daily Sun
June 17, 2002

PHOENIX — He’s commonly called Mo-Man by his Arizona teammates. You could also call pitcher Mike Morgan the sage of the Snakes.

Having been in the big leagues since 1978 — a week after graduating from Valley High School in Las Vegas — Morgan has seen his share of ups and downs. He’s pitched in 593 games and played for a record 12 big-league clubs. And he’s gained plenty of insight and wisdom about not getting too ecstatic or too depressed during the course of a 162-game season.

“What we do for a living is a marathon,” he said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

According to Morgan, the Diamondbacks, who start a three-game interleague series against the Baltimore Orioles tonight at Bank One Ballpark with a one-game lead over the Dodgers, are doing just fine and there’s no reason to panic about a bullpen that has been shaky at times.

“Our starters are going to go through a tough stretch,” Morgan said. “They’re human. Our hitters are going to go through a stretch. Our defense has gone through bad stretches. And our bullpen is going to go through stretches.

“Then again, with all of that, we are still in first. We are not going to dwell on it. … and we are ahead of schedule from what this club did last year.”

Morgan has appeared in 25 games this season, all in relief, posting a 1-1 record and a 5.34 ERA. He’s allowed 34 hits in 28 2/3 innings, walking six and striking out 10.

As the oldest player on the team, Morgan understands the impact veterans have for a ballclub.

“For the young guys that are 21-, 22- 23-year-olds, we as veterans have a job to do, too, to plant a seed, because we were there before (the young guys),” Morgan said.

“It’s a mental game. You’ve already got the physical part of it down, and with the mental part of it down, you have adjustments to make.

“There are going to be some tough roads for the Bret Prinzes, and the (Duaner) Sanchezes, the (Mike) Koploves and the (Byung-Hyun) Kims. We have tough roads, too.”

Asked how long he’d like to remain in the big leagues, Morgan responded by saying, “It’s day to day. I’m a day-to-day guy. I’d like to go on forever, but there’s no such thing as forever.

“I definitely want to play one more year,” he continued. “Twenty-five full years. I’m definitely on a mission to play at least one more for sure.”

Morgan was primarily used as a starter throughout his career, and he made 25 starts for the Texas Rangers in 1999. Since joining the D-backs in 2000, he’s pitched in 116 games and made just four starts.

Regardless of the situation, Morgan said he has a job to do out there on the pitching mound.

“I know what I can still bring to the table, and I’m still good at what I do: start, setup, long, close, nothing protocol,” said Morgan, who has held opponents to a .160 average over the past 19 days (4-for-25).

“I’m a guy they can use as a starter, middle man, closer, a get-out-of-a-jam guy. When the manager puts you out there, you have a job to do.”

Never blessed with jaw-dropping velocity, Morgan marvels at the exploits of up-and-coming hurlers like Sanchez, who made his big-league debut in Friday’s game.

“Me being 42, my stuff was never like that when I was 22,” Morgan said. “I never got a chance to throw 95 mph. The hardest I’ve ever thrown, maybe I hit 89 1/4 once, maybe 90 1/4 with the wind behind me.”

Maybe so, but few pros have stuck around for 24 seasons … and counting.