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Jack Morris to Twins: Get It Right Now

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May 6, 2018

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The Twins are 8-15 in their last 23 games. They are 4-12 since April 20 and have an overall record of 12-17.

Jack Morris, the former Twins pitcher who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, is concerned about his old team. Talking to Sports Headliners last week before the Twins went to Chicago for their weekend series against the White Sox, he spoke about the danger of losing too many games too early in the season.

“You remember two years ago, they lost the season in April,” Morris said. “They were out. They were so far behind (in the division standings) they lost their season in April.

“You don’t win a season in April but you can lose one. If they continue this (tailspin) for another week or two, it’s going to be another lost season. They’ve got to get out of it right now.”

The 2016 Twins finished with a 59-103 record. Minnesota’s April record that year was 7-17, followed by 8-19 and 10-17 the next two months. The first winning month of the season came in July with a 15-11 record.

Morris acknowledged how losing can impact players psychologically. “I think you start thinking about it. It’s human nature to start dwelling on what’s wrong instead of what can work. …”

The Twins finish a four-game series with the White Sox today. Minnesota needs a win to avoid a series split in the games that are part of a 10-game, 11-day road trip.

Morris hopes the Twins are getting ready to start a long winning streak. He reminded an interviewer that during a 162-game season, teams experience weeks of both winning and losing streaks, while the rest of the time “they grind it out.”

“There’s an old saying,” Morris said. “You’re going to win 50 (games and) you’re going to lose 50. What you do with the other 62 is what matters.”

Miguel Sano (photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins).

It’s been the Twins’ misfortune to have injuries sideline their best pitcher, Ervin Santana, center fielder Byron Buxton, catcher Jason Castro and third baseman Miguel Sano. Jorge Polanco, the team’s starting shortstop in 2017, is missing the first 80 games of the season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

Being without core players is a challenge but so, too, is lack of consistency from the pitching staff. That inconsistency is exemplified by 23-year-old potential ace Jose Berrios who managed a win Friday night by lasting six innings and giving up four runs. In an April 12 start against the White Sox Berrios was sharper, throwing seven shutout innings while allowing only three hits and striking out 11 batters.

Morris offered this evaluation of Berrios prior to the right hander’s latest start: “Well, you know, it’s funny. He’s been two different guys so far this year. He was a dominant guy. He came out like a lion the first couple games. Then the last two games he hasn’t had his velocity. He has been tailing his breaking ball, which hasn’t been very consistent, and hasn’t been able to locate it, and so that puts him in a hole again.

“I don’t know if he has the strength to be that lion that he was the first time throughout the whole year or not. But he certainly seems to be going with more breaking balls that aren’t as effective the last couple times.”

In the first inning of Berrios’ Friday night start he gave up three hits including a two-run home run to Jose Abreu. Twins TV analyst Roy Smalley echoed Morris’ comments saying he believes Berrios sometimes“gets away from his fast ball way too soon.”

Morris pitched in 549 big league games, most of them for the Tigers. He knows that even the top pitchers don’t always have their best stuff but that’s where they need to be creative and determined enough to still win.

When Morris looks at Berrios, he sees a pitcher trending upward in his third big league season. Perhaps a pitcher that some day could be in the conversation for the Cy Young Award. “Well, you know the way he pitched the first couple games he was almost unhittable,” Morris said. “His stuff is way above average when he is on.

“The more he wins, the confidence level and the focus gets sharper. You cannot tell anybody that until they have experienced it themselves. …Then you can be creative on the days when you don’t have your stuff.”

Morris had confidence and grit including his memorable Game Seven that carried the Twins to their World Series championship in 1991 against the Braves. It was a highlight experience for the St. Paul native who won 254 big league games pitching for the Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians.

Morris receives the ultimate personal award this summer with his induction into the Hall of Fame. The ceremony will culminate a baseball life that goes back to being a six-year-old with big dreams. Morris recalled riding home from a Twins game at Met Stadium and saying this to his mom:

“Some day I am going to play in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins.

“She grabbed my arm and kind of hugged me and squeezed me, and said, ‘Well you just keep dreaming.’

“I said, ‘No, mom, I am serious. I am going to.’ ”

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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