Suns notebook: Morrison tries to regain his hitting eye

May 30, 1998

Things haven't been the way Greg Morrison envisioned them since he's come to Hagerstown.

He's kept a cool head about it all. He hasn't panicked.

Instead, he went to the movies.

The Hagerstown Suns' first baseman has been coping with a far-from-premiere season thus far. It's been Titanic, but more like the ship than the movie.

But on Tuesday, Morrison showed signs of being the hit that billboards are made of. He slugged a solo home run in the Suns' 6-2 victory over Hickory, giving every sign that his season-long slump may be over.

The key? An afternoon matinee with the Suns coaching staff.

"I sat down with (Suns manager Marty Pevey) and (hitting coach Paul Elliott) and looked at tapes of when I was hitting last year and how I've been hitting this year," Morrison said. "They showed me that I was keeping my weight back more then. I was able to do that the first couple of at-bats (on Tuesday), but with hitting, it takes time. It's not a one-time thing."


Morrison came to town touted as the power hitter that Suns' fans had dreamed about for years. A strong left-handed swinger who can continually challenge the short right-field bullpen fence at Municipal Stadium.

And Morrison's 1997 statistics added to the anticipation. The 22-year-old free agent won the Pioneer League Triple Crown by hitting .448 with 23 home runs and 88 RBIs in 69 games.

"I'm old enough to know that I'll never have a year like that again," Morrison said. "I have to tell myself that hitting that well isn't a one-time thing though. I know I'll never hit .400 again, but I'd like to be able to hit .300 again."

The slump and injuries have taken care of any fast start. Morrison has been nursing a nagging quad pull - the muscle group located on the front of the thigh - all season. It's the type of injury that can be aggavated every time a player runs or even sits down in the dugout.

"I'm not 100 percent, but it's about 95 percent," Morrison said. "I'm not going to use the injury as an excuse. It hasn't affected my hitting. It has been not keeping my weight back."

Still, Morrison is hitting .234 with five home runs and 28 RBIs in 42 games.

"It's all mechanical," Morrison said. "When I'm going well, I don't strike out a lot. When I'm positive, I'm more relaxed. When you're slumping, you're pressing more, and it leads to strikeouts."

Tuesday's home run was Morrison's first since April 16 at Capital City. It ended a 37-game drought, but it was the last thing he wanted to see.

"That was probably the worst thing that could have happened," Morrison said. "It can give you the feeling that you're out of the slump with that one swing. I know I'm not. But it made me think back to where I was last year. The big thing is to stay back and I can get back to the way things were last year."

Back when Greg Morrison was a movie star.

Who's No. 1

Randy Albaral has to feel all fuzzy inside.

He's wanted. He's missed. And he is sorely needed by the Suns.

After nearly a month of trial and error, Albaral had won the job as Hagerstown's leadoff hitter. It was a long drawn out audition with Pevey trying three other players before settling on Albaral.

The promotion was short-lived though. Albaral has been sidelined since injuring his wrist while making a diving catch on May 20 at Charleston, S.C.

Pevey's search has been on again.

"How important is the leadoff hitter?" Pevey said. "Ask the Atlanta Braves when they had Marquis Grissom, or Cleveland with Kenny Lofton. You get a good leadoff hitter who stings a line drive right off the bat, it puts a little doubt in the pitcher's mind."

For the last week, Pevey has been dealing with the doubt. He's tried Cesar Izturis as the No. 1 hitter, but hasn't got what he wanted out of the position.

His next choice was second baseman Mike Young, although it was a little reluctantly.

"He's probably not a leadoff hitter, but he hits the ball and hits it hard," Pevey said. "He can put that doubt in a pitcher's mind."

Young had settled into the No. 2 slot in Hagerstown's order, even hitting third at times. He has shown a knack for line drives and extra-base hits, ranking second in the South Atlantic League with 26 through Friday.

For Young, the leadoff job is a part-time assignment he has to make the best of.

"I'm not the prototypical leadoff guy," Young said. "I'm more of an RBI hitter, but Marty feels that I'm the next best thing. I'm not the type of hitter who takes a lot of pitches. I usually hit the first good pitch I see, and I'm not going to change that."

Young became a logical choice for the job, since his .370 on-base percentage is one of the best among Suns regulars.

Still, Pevey is looking forward to Albaral's return. The outfielder took batting practice for the first time on Friday and had a chance to be back in the lineup for Saturday's game at Charleston, W.Va.

"Randy has been such a big plus for us as the leadoff hitter," Pevey said. "His batting average went up from .190 to .246. And when Randy gets on, he can run."

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