There’s a different feeling around the Phillies clubhouse these days compared to that of last year. A sense of optimism and pride can be felt by anyone who enters.
Adam Morgan is the latest newcomer to take in the new environment at Citizens Bank Park.
“The energy is high and everyone is picking each other up,” Morgan said after his first start of the season on Friday.
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The series opener with Cleveland saw Morgan go five innings with seven strikeouts and three earned runs. The latter wasn’t exactly what he had hoped for, but this isn’t the same situation from last season. In 15 starts in 2015, Morgan was 0-4 in games he allowed three or more wins with two no decisions.
This year’s team has a no-quit mindset and a bullpen – so far – that is pitching lights out. Morgan left the game with the score 3-3. The game would eventually be won in the 11th inning on a Ryan Howard walk-off home run.
Manager Pete Mackanin has enjoyed this new attitude from his players.
“They’re out to prove they should stay here,” Mackanin said. “Players are out to prove they can play here. They won’t give up.”
Morgan will be the fifth starter now in place of Charlie Morton, who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn hamstring. In spring training, Morgan battled with Vince Velasquez for the final spot in the rotation.
If not for the tremendous upside that Velasquez brought, Morgan would’ve been the victor after going 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts.
“It was a close battle him and Velasquez but we needed to give [Velasquez] a real look to see if he was ready, obviously he is,” Mackanin said. “Now we know Morgan is here to do what he can do. It’s nice to have that guy come up and start for us.”
The 26-year-old is hoping to show the Phillies he belongs as he looks to cement himself in the rotation while the arsenal of young arms in the farm develop.
“He’s pitched in the big leagues for us last year so it’s not like an audition to see if he can pitch good,” Mackanin said. “We know what he’s doing. He pitched pretty well down in Triple-A. He’s always been a command and control guy.”
That command was on display in his debut. His seven strikeouts to one walk (an intentional walk, by the way) was impressive. He never had more than six in a game last season and never allowed just one walk with more than five strikeouts, either.
After their fifth straight win on Saturday, the Phillies finished the month of April with a 14-10 mark and averaged over 10 strikeouts in nine innings – that’s the best strikeout ratio in the opening month of the season in MLB history.
All of that – minus Morgan’s first start – being done with five right-handers in the rotation. Morgan will now add a different look to the group being a lefty.
“Our starters have pitched pretty well,” Mackanin said. “To have a lefty in the rotation… I think Adam Morgan is going to fit right in. I like what he does.”