ATLANTA -- Nyjer Morgan described his first Opening Day experience as "unreal" and "unbelievable" -- second only to the day last September when Morgan made his Major League debut.
But once the initial goose bumps cleared and the introductions were completed, the reality of Morgan's role on the team slowly set in. With Nate McLouth earning the nod as the team's starting center fielder, Morgan is learning how to become not just a spectator, but an active spectator, on the bench.
His pregame routine hasn't changed, nor has his pregame preparation been altered. But he has talked with others, particularly bench coach Gary Varsho, on how to transition from being an everyday player to one used primarily off the bench. And in the process, Morgan said that he has some new objectives.
"We just talked about some stuff, and mostly about being mentally ready -- to watch the game and to analyze the game," Morgan said of his conversation with Varsho. "I have to analyze and understand what's going on, so that when it comes to coming into certain situations, I'll be ready."
It's a new challenge for Morgan, who was a starter all the way through his Minor League climb and even started 25 games for the Pirates last year as a September callup. He'll be making a number of spot starts with the Pirates, but in between, Morgan will be used in a variety of ways. He will be called on to pinch-run, pinch-hit and enter the game as a defensive replacement.
"Yeah, is hard -- but you have to stay in the game," Morgan said. "You can't start star-gazing. I've just got to make sure to stay on task and be ready for when my name is called. I have to be ready for all situations."
Morgan did contribute off the bench in Monday's one-run victory by knocking a leadoff double in the seventh and later coming around to score on an Atlanta fielding error.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.