Secret agent - Morris enters spring with new contract
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
JUPITER, Fla. -- Matt Morris appeared to be where he should be Monday after two sessions of spring training mound work.
And that's good news for the St. Louis Cardinals, and especially for Morris, who negotiated his own three-year deal with the team last month.
"I just want to pick up with the good mental thoughts and experiences I had at the end of last season," Morris said. "I just want to go forward and get ready for the new season."
Morris threw 40 pitches off the mound and should be ready to do the same in batting practice Wednesday, pitching coach Dave Duncan said.
"He's in great shape, right where he should be at this time," he said.
Morris became a 20-game winner for the first time last season, a remarkable recovery after undergoing surgery on his right elbow in 1999. He missed all of that season but came back in 2000, coming out of the bullpen 31 times for a 3-3 record, four saves and a 3.57 ERA in 53 innings.
In 34 starts last season, Morris, 27, was 22-7, with two complete games and a 3.16 ERA in 216 innings. Morris, with Darryl Kile (16-11, 3.09), gave the Cardinals a strong one-two punch in their run to the National League wild card berth.
"I started talking to Walt (Jocketty, general manager) before the season was over," Morris said. "I didn't have an agent at the time but I've always had a good relationship with the organization and wanted to stay here."
Under the new contract, Morris gets $4 million this year, $10.5 million in 2003 and $12.5 million in 2004. He was eligible for salary arbitration and could have become a free agent after this season.
Morris was the second player in as many years to negotiate his own contract with the Cardinals, following the route taken last spring by first baseman Mark McGwire.
"We're working on it," Jocketty said with a smile when asked if other players might do the same.
"It takes a relationship with trust involved. Mark knew what he wanted, what the marketplace was. Matt is in his free agent year and he had numbers in mind."
NOTES: Outfielder J.D. Drew was listed as day-to-day after turning his left ankle while shagging flies in the outfield Monday. "It's just a slight sprain," said Drew, who was among early arrivals as position players are not required to report until Tuesday. The first full-squad workout is on Wednesday.