3/29/2014 12:06 A.M. ET
Morris earns spot in Opening Day 'pen for first time
By Jay Greenberg / Special to MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- After finishing off a sound spring with a 1-2-3 sixth inning on Friday night, it was not exactly breaking news that Bryan Morris, coming off a solid season in the Pirates' bullpen, was going to make the Opening Day roster.
Manager Clint Hurdle broke down and broke the news anyway.
"He has had some added life to his fastball, the two-seamer is playing better," Hurdle said of Morris, who allowed three runs in 9 1/3 spring innings after tossing 65 innings for Pittsburgh in 2013, when he posted a 3.46 ERA on 57 hits and 28 walks. "The command has tightened up a little bit.
"He has gotten better every time he has showed up here [at Pirates camp]. He has thrown pitches that are hard to hit and sometimes hard to catch. His confidence is in a good place.
"Spring Training has been good for him. We have the season to play now."
So Morris will be there at PNC Park for the opener on Monday. And what about Stolmy Pimentel, Vin Mazzaro and Jeanmar Gomez, the three pitchers -- like Morris all out of options -- for the two remaining bullpen spots?
"I'm not going anywhere else with that one," Hurdle said and smiled. "He set up a question so I threw him a bone. No more bones tonight."
Even hungrier than the rabid Bucco media for news has been Morris, who took a dogged approach through the winter.
"Good news to hear," he said after Hurdle's words were relayed. "I was expecting to be here, worked my butt off this offseason to come in to take one of those spots.
"I had a good spring, I guess, after my second outing when I gave up the home run to [Mike] Carp, I just simplified what I was doing and let everything just take off. That's where we are at right now. I am just going to try and keep it simple, because right now it's working."
This is the first time in five camps that Morris -- the last Pirates acquisition remaining from the four obtained in the Jason Bay trade in 2008 -- has stuck in Pittsburgh to start the season.
"I had plenty of Minor League opening days, I don't think is going to be quite the same," Morris said smiling.
"I would imagine it will be something similar to the [National League] Wild Card Game. I probably will get chill bumps. This is what I put work into my whole life -- to be a big leaguer. Knowing I am going to be here Opening Day, I am definitely grateful for this opportunity."
Ishikawa savors shot to resurrect career with Bucs
PHILADELPHIA -- Left out in the cold on Opening Day a year ago, Travis Ishikawa will be basking in the 59 degrees that are forecast for the season opener in Pittsburgh on Monday.
"Big league cold is always warmer than Minor League cold," Ishikawa smiled. "Funny how that happens."
After failing to make the Orioles out of Spring Training 52 weeks ago, Ishikawa was in Norfolk on his way to a 19-at-bat big league season with Baltimore and the Yankees. At the end of the 2013 season, he seemingly was headed out of the Majors forever. But barring the unforeseen, he will be standing on the third-base foul line at PNC Park as an Opening Day Pirate this year, which at the beginning of camp was not the expectation.
"After the type of year I had last year, the joy of being back on a Major League club on Opening Day is a joy in itself," said Ishikawa, 30, whose last full season in The Show was 2010 with the Giants. "But even if I had been in the big leagues a number of years, there is something about Opening Day.
"I know they keep talking about making it a national holiday. I definitely think it should be. This is America's pastime. Baseball has so much history in America, Opening Day deserves to be celebrated. It is a special moment for us as players, for anyone who has ever played from Little League on up, or who ever watched a game with his dad as a kid."
To that list, he could have added anyone who ever made a team after starting a camp as a non-roster player. Ishikawa, who still has to be added to the 40-man roster before Sunday's 3 p.m. ET deadline, accepted the Pirates invitation to camp because he felt it was the one that gave him the best chance to make a club. While prospect Andrew Lambo, perceived to be the Pirates' first choice to join Gaby Sanchez in a first-place platoon, struggled, Ishikawa proved to have delivered himself to the right place at the right time.
"I had some calls this offseason," Ishikawa said. "The best opportunity, I thought, was here.
"Most of the other situations, other guys were already established at first base and I would have been a left-handed pinch hitter off the bench. Everything I had heard and read, the Pirates were looking for someone to platoon with Gaby."
After a slow start, Ishikawa hit .290 in 31 Spring Training at-bats, launched three home runs and drove in six runs, good numbers that he said came from not unnecessarily worrying about the numbers, never mind he obviously needed some production to resume his Major League life.
"I have had a lot of Spring Trainings and I have learned that you can't allow yourself to worry about results," Ishikawa said.
"I know I have been a victim of this in the past. But if you start worrying about the results rather than the process, you are focusing on things you can't always control. You end up trying too hard and pressing and maybe making corrections for the worse.
"When I got off to a really slow start, I was able to take positives from each at-bat. I felt I was seeing the ball. The swings I was taking were good, I focused on the positives."
Hanging onto Major League life by a thread, Ishikawa had considerable pressure to ignore. He eased it by not looking at this as his last chance.
"If it didn't work out and I ended up going to the Minor Leagues, it wouldn't have been fun, but I don't have a straight timeline where if I am not in the Major Leagues I am going to quit," he said. "When the time is right, God will put me where he wants me to be."
Bonds, Groat, Leyland among presenters at opener
PHILADELPHIA -- To celebrate their bright present, the Pirates will honor their past before Monday's PNC Park season opener, having former Bucs trophy winners be presenters of their huge haul of offseason Major League Baseball awards.
Andrew McCutchen will receive his 2013 National League Most Valuable Player Award from Barry Bonds, the 1991 winner, and Dick Groat, the honoree in 1960. Dave Parker, who won the award in 1978, has a scheduling conflict and will not be able to attend.
"Pretty cool," said McCutchen. "It will be nice to meet Dick Groat and Barry Bonds. Looking forward to it."
Jack Wilson, a Silver Slugger Award winner in 2004 when he had 201 hits, will present the prized silver bat to 2013 Pirates winners Pedro Alvarez and McCutchen.
Jim Leyland, a two-time National League Manager of the Year, will pass that honor along to Clint Hurdle, the 2013 winner.
"I'm the last guy who thought I would get a Manager of the Year Award," said Hurdle. "To have Jim Leyland present it is very humbling and very special.
"I think the world of Jim professionally and personally. It is quite an honor that I will receive it on behalf of the organization, the players and coaches.
Jay Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.