Cardinals' lone All-Star says he needs consistency

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals' lone All-Star is far from pleased with his first half this season.

Pitcher Matt Morris, selected Sunday for the second straight time, is 10-5 with a 3.27 ERA. Those numbers are in line with his breakthrough season last year, when he won 22 games and finished third in the NL Cy Young balloting.

But Morris believes he could be a lot more consistent. He's still kicking himself over blowing a six-run, first-inning lead in Sunday's 12-8 loss to Cincinnati, a setback that dropped the Cardinals into a first-place tie with the Reds in the NL Central.

"There's some games in the first half that I really thought I could have done a better job, games that kind of got away from me mentally," Morris said. "Yesterday was a tough one, too. I had that game easily.

"To get six runs in the first, it should have been a no-brainer."

Morris lasted five innings in 93-degree heat Sunday. Before that, he had compiled a 2.19 ERA in four June starts.

"I usually can suck it up and wait till the game's over," Morris said. "Physically it beat me yesterday, somehow. It wasn't just missing spots. It was more like mentally I wasn't really out there, which is cheating myself."

The Cardinals can live with Morris' occasional miss-steps. He's proven to be a good stopper, winning 13 times the past two seasons after a Cardinals loss.

"I think he's risen to the occasion over and over and over again," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's about on a par with the other real good pitchers in the league.

"Every once in a while he has a start that isn't good, but he's high, high quality."

Morris said he hadn't been thinking about the All-Star Game before he was chosen.

"I just tried to go about my business the first half and see what happened," he said. "It's not one of my goals, although it does say you're doing something for the team to be selected."

Morris is anxious to immerse himself in the All-Star atmosphere next week in Milwaukee. The game is July 9.

"It's not as intense as winning and losing right now, and it should be a fun atmosphere," Morris said. "Last year I was real nervous and I didn't know what to expect or what to do.

"This year should be fun."

Morris easily could end up pitching, considering he'll be rested at game time. His last start before the break is Friday.

"I don't know if that makes me happy," Morris said. "I'd rather just sit there and enjoy the three days, but we'll see what happens."

The only problem he has with the game is some of his teammates won't be accompanying him. He believed Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols, Edgar Renteria and Fernando Vina all had a chance to be selected.

"I don't think I'm the only one that should be going, that's for sure," Morris said. "All those guys had a lot to do with me being selected."

Pujols, the NL rookie of the year last season, still has a shot. He's among a group of five players under consideration for an extra spot to be determined by fan voting on the Internet the next two days at MLB.com and ESPN.com, along with Larry Walker of Colorado, Brian Giles of Pittsburgh, Ryan Klesko of San Diego and Andruw Jones of Atlanta.

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