ANAHEIM, Calif. — Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked a few days ago if rookie reliever Mike Morin gained confidence from a strikeout of Miguel Cabrera.
He shook his head and chuckled a bit. Morin, he explained, is not lacking confidence.
An example off the field, one that occurred way before he was even drafted by the Los Angeles Angels, perfectly illustrates Scioscia’s point.
The right-handed Morin hails from Overland Park, Kan., about 20 minutes outside of Lawrence and the University of Kansas. It’s a basketball-mad area and Morin grew up on the religion that is Jayhawks basketball.
He chose to play for North Carolina and it was purely a baseball decision. When it’s about basketball, it’s all about the Jayhawks.
"I told my friends that I’ll support UNC but not if they play KU," Morin said. "And then they actually played each other two years in the (NCAA) Tournament."
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Morin spurned the Carolina Blue in favor of Crimson and Blue, showing up to watch the games with his friends in Chapel Hill, wearing Kansas Jayhawks gear.
"I showed up all KU’d out," he said. "It did not go over well."
The Angels drafted Morin in 13th round two years ago and he quickly rose through the ranks. He was called up April 30, at a time when the bullpen was still a disaster. But Morin (3-3, 2.50 ERA) soon emerged as one of the most reliable relief arms. And as the bullpen pieces have finally fallen into place, Morin has shown his value as a reliever that can come in and get tough outs, regardless of the situation simply because he was never afraid to fail.
"When you first get called up, you’re so worried about getting sent back down when you’re doing bad," Morin said. "Over the course of two, three weeks you kind of just get back to normal. That original first couple weeks is kind of shaky but then, you know, you work your way up the ladder. So I’ve been throwing the ball well lately."
Morin took a hit in May when facing his hometown Royals and then an even bigger one after returning from the All-Star break when he gave up a career-high three earned runs. He’s a pitcher that relies on control and a loss of that can be devastating for some rookies. But his ability to bounce back after rough outings has been obvious: Morin has yet to give up earned runs in back-to-back outings yet.
"I kind of ran into some tough luck and couple bad pitches but that’s the best part about relieving is that you have a tough one and you get to go out there the next day," He said. "Everyone can say, ‘Oh, I have a good short-term memory,’ but regardless, that last outing good or bad, that’s what’s in your mind until you get to throw again. That’s kind of that lasting image…
"But when you get an opportunity to throw again the next day or the day after, and they put you in that same situation that you previously failed in it makes you want to do that much better."
Like Scioscia said, Morin already has enough confidence to fill the ballpark, which is exactly the right attitude he wants his rookie relievers to have.
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"Like any youngster that comes into this league that wants to have success, you have to go out there thinking you’re Mariano Rivera, thinking you’re Dennis Eckersley and you’re going to close out your inning whenever it is you’re pitching," Scioscia said. "Mike has that mentality. He’s confident, he’s very comfortable going out and making his pitches and he trusts that his arm is good and his stuff is good."
A former MVP or a rookie just like him, Morin will still approach hitter the same. As far as he’s concerned, he’s getting them all out.
"As far as confidence, I don’t know if that’s going to give him anymore than he already has," Scioscia said. "But I think that if I got Miguel Cabrera out, I might be walking a little bit taller, yeah."