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Morton remains unsure on career beyond 2020

@juanctoribio
July 3, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- Back in March, Charlie Morton was unsure if this would be his last Major League season. He was entering his 13th season in the big leagues and the final year of his contract with the Rays. Over the past few months, Morton -- who has been throwing

ST. PETERSBURG -- Back in March, Charlie Morton was unsure if this would be his last Major League season. He was entering his 13th season in the big leagues and the final year of his contract with the Rays.

Over the past few months, Morton -- who has been throwing consistently and threw a three-inning 50-pitch session during Friday’s workout at Tropicana Field -- said that he’s still unsure about what his future holds after this season.

“Part of me doesn’t really want to end my career this way, if I could help it. I really don’t want to go out because of this,” Morton said. “I’d like to think that I’ve been staying in good shape, I’ve been throwing and staying ready in preparation to help contribute, but I don’t know. When you jot [retirement] down in your head, the idea of a shortened season amidst a pandemic is not the way you really imagine it. I haven’t really made up my mind about that.”

Aside from not wanting to end his career this way, a big part of Morton's decision will come down to his family. He is very open about his desire to spend more time with his wife and kids, which also played a role in the Rays landing him as a free agent in December 2018.

If Morton decides to return for a 14th season, the Rays have the ability to pick up a third-year option in his contract that would be worth $15 million. After making a career-high 33 starts in 2019, finishing third in the American League Cy Young Award race and considering the impact he’s made on the rest of the clubhouse, it would seem like an easy decision for Tampa Bay, assuming Morton is healthy and wants to return.

As far as the 2020 season goes, Morton said he still doesn’t feel “entirely comfortable” with the idea of playing, but he feels he has a “responsibility to the organization” to try it out and he never considered sitting out.

“My intention was to play if we had the opportunity,” Morton said. “It’s hard to come out and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m really comfortable with this,’ but I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. I don’t know how long we’re supposed to stay in our homes and wait to make a decision about our careers.

“If there are a bunch of people that are sacrificing their time and effort and their safety to make this possible, I feel like I should try. I never really questioned whether or not I wanted to play. There’s an opportunity for everybody here to walk away and I don’t think anybody is going to think less of them.”

Attendance at first workout
Of the 37 players on the club's roster, the Rays had 32 players attend the first Summer Camp workout on Friday, with four groups of eight players. The players who weren’t in attendance were Yonny Chirinos, Chaz Roe, José Martínez and non-roster invitees Kevan Smith and Chris Herrmann.

“Given all of the protocols and guidelines that we’re trying to follow, we’re not going to get into specifics,” manager Kevin Cash said. “There were a variety of reasons as to why we weren’t at 100 percent attendance.”

Of the five players who didn’t attend the workout, Herrmann and Smith were moved to the Port Charlotte Summer Camp roster, leaving just Martínez, Roe and Chirinos as unknowns. There’s no timetable on when they will return to the field, and given that there is just three weeks until Opening Day, an extended absence would affect their availability heading into the season.

“Under normal circumstances, when players miss time, there’s that certain amount of time that we decide that they need reps -- at-bats or mound work -- before you throw them in a big league game, so I don’t think from that stance it changes much,” Cash said. “We’re going to have guys that miss time throughout this process and we’ll factor in their circumstances, see how we can ramp them back up and go from there.”

Among the pitchers who did attend the workout, Jalen Beeks, Pete Fairbanks, Colin Poche, Trevor Richards, Ryan Yarbrough and Morton all threw off the mound.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.