Eli Morgan thriving in Guardians bullpen

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

I’m going to stop using the phrase “secret weapon” after this week, simply because it’s no longer a secret. Coming into the season, it’d be hard to imagine that Eli Morgan would be the guy everyone most trusts coming into high-leverage situations to get the ball to Emmanuel Clase in the ninth.

Morgan was a starter who showed potential through a year in which he was called upon maybe too soon to make the leap to the big leagues when the Cleveland rotation was decimated by injuries. It was known that he’d no longer have a spot in the rotation to start this season, assuming the top five starters remained healthy throughout Spring Training. That left the team to determine if it was better to have him waiting in Triple-A as an extra starter or move him to the bullpen to handle some long-relief situations.

The Guardians chose the latter, and even they couldn’t have predicted how important that decision would become.

Morgan has turned in 10 consecutive scoreless outings (14 1/3 straight scoreless innings) since the beginning of May, heading into Thursday, and has found his way into something like a utility role on the pitching staff. If the Guardians need an opener to eat up two or three innings? Morgan can be that guy. If they need someone to start up a suspended game after a long two-hour rain delay like Wednesday night? Morgan can be that guy. If they need someone to face the heart of a team’s order in the eighth inning with a one-run lead? Morgan can be that guy.

No one really knows how a starter will handle a transition to the bullpen. And even if they find success, there’s no guarantee that the hurler wouldn’t still wish he was pitching every fifth day. But for Morgan, he may have found a role that could become permanent.

“It’s so fun,” Morgan said. “Showing up to the ballpark having a chance to play every day. I thoroughly like starting and the routines that come with that, but getting a chance to play more often is really fun.”

What’s allowed him to get to this point? I asked him that question (because I, too, am ridiculously curious) and the answer seemed really simple, but maybe just getting comfortable is all it takes:

“My arm is at a point now where I’m used to the quick outings, the quick return,” Morgan said. “This was my first [time pitching] back-to-back [days on Tuesday and Wednesday], which was a huge thing to cross off my list. But I’ve been ready for it for some time now. I think just adapting to the shorter outings and knowing I can get in there any day, getting used to it, it’s helping.”

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