The World Baseball Classic had one of its biggest ratings this past week. As Team USA went one to defeat Team Puerto Rico in the final game, a former Kansas State pitcher was auditioning for spot with Team Italy.
Kansas State has seen its fair share of talent go on to play Minor League, and eventually, Major League baseball. One former Wildcat hurler was hoping to turn a few heads during his time in the WBC.
A.J. Morris was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 4th round of the June, 2009 first year player draft. Morris made his Major League debut this past season with the Cincinnati Reds.
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He didn’t have a great season, appearing in only 7 games, he pitched 10 innings with a 6.30 ERA. Morris gave up 9 hits, 8 BB’s, 2 HR’s, 7 earned runs, and struck out 9. He faced a total of 47 hitters and his -0.1 WAR and 1.700 WHIP rounded out his line.
It was a less than good season for Morris in 2016. However, when the World Baseball Classic rolled around this year, Morris wanted in on it, and earned a spot on Team Italy.
A.J. Morris started Team Italy’s tie breaking game against Venezuela for a spot in round two of the WBC. His start was phenomenal and a far cry from his 2016 numbers with the Reds.
Morris no-hit Venezuela for 5 innings but was lifted before the 6th inning at 62 pitches. The WBC had a pitch count restriction on pitchers of 65 pitches.
No-hitting the Venezuelan team through five innings was no small feat. Morris was brilliant against the likes of Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Alcides Escobar, Freddy Galvis, Ender Inciarte, Carlos Gonzalez, Victor Martinez, and Salvador Perez.
That’s a potent lineup and Morris mowed through them with apparent ease. His performance could be good enough to land him a Minor League deal with a team, as he is a free agent.
Morris finished the 2017 WBC with a much better line than his 2016 season with the Reds. In 3 games played (1 started) for the Italians, Morris tossed 7.1 innings allowing only 2 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 3 BB’s 5 strike outs and 0 HR’s, with a WHIP of 0.68.
In most club’s spring training camps, that’s usually good enough to at least start the year on a AAA roster. After this WBC performance, hopefully A.J. did enough to get the attention of a club.
It’s a small sample for Morris, but it looks like he may have turned a corner. The WBC has been a great event for players to break into the big leagues. It has also been a great event that helped revive the careers of some veteran guys.
Best of luck to A.J. Morris as he continues to pursue his big league dreams!