LOS ANGELES -- Nearly one month into the Minor League season, the Pirates' best pitcher to date has been a right-hander who was among the organization's most disappointing performers last year. Bryan Morris tossed another seven scoreless innings in a start for high-Class A Bradenton on Friday to lower his season ERA to 0.98 through five starts. In 27 2/3 innings this year, Morris has walked three, while striking out 26. His ERA is the lowest among all starters in the Pirates' farm system. To put this into perspective, Morris finished '09 with a 5.57 ERA, having walked two more (34) than he struck out (32) in 72 2/3 innings at the high-Class A level. Morris' 2009 season began with a stint on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and it included an 11-game organization-instituted suspension for "unprofessional conduct." Unquestionably, the right-hander's stock dipped by the time the year came to an end.
However, Morris responded by spending the offseason reworking both his body composition and his delivery, the latter of which has done wonders with his fastball command. Was that all it took for such a drastic turnaround? "I think that he finally got to a point where he said, 'I need to do some things differently,' and bought in," director of player development Kyle Stark said. "Ultimately, it's a testament to Bryan Morris for buying in." Morris' reemergence has made him look much more like the high-upside prospect the Pirates believed they were receiving when the Dodgers included him in the 2008 Jason Bay-Manny Ramirez trade. "After the delivery adjustments that Bryan has made, I think his upside is even higher than it was when we made the trade," Stark said. "We love what he's done to date. We have to remind ourselves that it's only been a month working with this new delivery in games that matter. We still have some work to do, but he's made good strides." If Morris continues to dominate the Florida State League, he isn't likely to stay there much longer. Stark said the organization wants to get Morris "significant innings" in Double-A this year, which suggests a promotion could be coming soon.