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Morris earns spot in Opening Day 'pen for first time

Morris earns spot in Opening Day 'pen for first time

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.

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"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."

Jay Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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