Phillies add bullpen depth with righty Morin

July 21st, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- The Phillies continued to sidestep digging into the farm system to fill their roster needs with Saturday’s acquisition of right-hander from the Twins.

Philadelphia sent cash considerations to Minnesota to acquire Morin, who was designated for assignment on Tuesday by Minnesota.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster. Within seven days of the transaction (had been 10 days under the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement), the player can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

The move helps even out an odd conundrum the Phillies face; they have a plethora of left-handed relievers, especially for the middle innings.

To make room on the 25-man roster, was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In addition, was transferred to the 60-day injured list to create a 40-man roster spot.

Manager Gabe Kapler said he doesn’t plan to “ease” Morin into a tight spot during a game, but rather he’ll try to fit him in when the situation dictates.

“We’ll look for the opportunity to pop him into a leverage spot,” Kapler said, “but we’re not going to force it.”

That opportunity came quickly, as Morin pitched the seventh inning of Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Pirates, allowing one run on two hits.

Morin feels that outside of one bad outing -- his final with Minnesota, in which he allowed four runs in one inning -- he’s had a “pretty productive season.” He’s certainly got a case for that claim: across his other 22 appearances this season, he put up a 1.66 ERA with a 0.876 WHIP over 21 2/3 innings.

“I was able to have a little bit of success this year,” he said, “and I’ve had a ton of success over the last couple of years, when I was able to hit my stride.”

What makes Morin so valuable is his plus changeup, which has been his calling card throughout his pro career. Baseball America even called it the best in the Angels’ farm system back in 2014, and it still baffles hitters, producing a .156 batting average against this year. Part of the danger is in the speed, or lack of it. At 73.6 mph on average, Morin’s changeup is the second slowest in the Majors this season (min. 20 IP), behind only Milwaukee’s Alex Claudio (72.9).

“Mike is a different book,” Kapler said. “I think anything that stands out as different is good, usually."

This will be Morin’s first go with a National League team, but he’s familiar with quite a few Phillies already. He’s played with Fernando Salas, Jose Alvarez and Juan Nicasio, but he’s most familiar with bullpen coach Jim Gott, who served as the Angels’ Minor League pitching coordinator when Morin worked his way up L.A.’s farm system ladder.

“When I found out I was coming over here, I was able to talk with him, and having him as a resource -- especially being in the bullpen, being the bullpen coach … the fact that he’s over here is pretty comforting and bridges that gap,” Morin said.

The 28-year-old hasn’t stuck at the Major League level with much regularity over the past two seasons. He only pitched four innings with the Mariners in 2018, spending much of the year with Triple-A Tacoma. Then the Twins signed him on a Minor League deal before bringing him up in May. So the Phillies’ willingness to pick up Morin and put him on the 25-man roster immediately gives him a boost.

“All you can ask for is an opportunity. And talking with Gabe and talking with everybody, that’s what this is. Anytime you can get an opportunity to pitch at the Major League level, hopefully some meaningful outs, that’s quite possibly exactly what you’re looking for.”

Kapler said Hammer’s corresponding option was due in part to help him clean up his strike-pounding ability, but was also influenced by Hammer’s health history. The right-hander spent two months on the injured list while with Class A Advanced Clearwater last season, and the Phillies don’t want to see his workload grow rapidly as they fight to maintain their spot in a tight National League playoff race.

“It’s been a lot of work for him coming off a season that had some injury issues and a small workload,” Kapler said. “In our bullpen … we are leaning heavily on guys, and we don’t really have the luxury of having guys on a schedule and taking the kind of care of a pitcher that J.D. needs right now.”