Bat man: Hitting well is Morrison’s path to the Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers took a flyer on Logan Morrison this offseason and the veteran has been soaring during spring training.

The 32-year-old veteran first baseman signed a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training back in early January. This despite Milwaukee having signed first baseman Justin Smoak to the 40-man roster just weeks earlier.

In addition, the Brewers have stated a plan which will have Ryan Braun playing first base as well. That doesn’t apparently leave much room for Morrison, who can also play the outfield but hasn’t done so with any regularity since 2012.

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But Morrison’s path to the Brewers isn’t with his glove.

“You need Logan to be a bat, you need him to hit,” manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s been his calling card as a major-league player. That’s how he makes a roster is he gives you a bat. He’s done that. He’s done his part so far.”

Entering Wednesday, Morrison had made 11 spring training appearances and is 9-for-27 (.333) with three home runs.

“What Logan’s done is what you need Logan Morrison to do,” Counsell said.

Morrison is happy with his output and the home runs – but not altogether surprised. After all, he’s hit 139 major-league home runs, including seasons with 23 (2011 with the Marlins) and 38 (2017 with the Rays).

“If I get a ball on the barrel and it goes in the air it’s probably going out of the park,” Morrison noted. “It’s not my fault, it’s just the way it is. These guys throw really hard. You barrel it up and it’s going to go a long way.”

But Morrison knows it can’t just be boon or bust for him.

While he had a standout season in Tampa in ’17 with the 38 homers and .516 slugging percentage, he’s floundered the past two years.

He signed as a free agent with Minnesota in 2018 but struggled to a slash line of .186/.276/.368 with 15 home runs in 95 games. In 2019, Morrison spent the majority of the season in Triple-A (where he showed he didn’t belong, hitting a combined .308/..369/.640 with 15 homers in 95 games for Scranton/Wilkes Barre and Lehigh Valley) before getting 38 plate appearances, mainly as a pinch hitter, for Philadelphia, going 7 for 35 (.200) with two homers.

One thing Morrison has been working at to improve is better pitch selection. Trying to hit pitches over the plate and if not, lay off and have longer at-bats and be content to reach base with a walk.

That would be a definite change from the Morrison who has been in the majors since 2010. He’s had an on-base percentage of over .330 just twice in his MLB career — .390 as a rookie in 287 plate appearances and 2017 (.353).

Morrison has had a walk percentage in double digits four times: 2010 (14.3%), 2011 (10.3%), 2013 (11.4%) and 2017 (13.5%). As a comparison, four Brewers regulars had a 10% or higher walk percentage last season: Yasmani Grandal (17.3%), Christian Yelich (13.8%), Ben Gamel (11.2%) and Eric Thames (11.1%).

“Shorter at-bats, pitches that I get early in the count, middle of the plate, damage will be done,” Morrison explained. “If they choose not to throw middle of the plate it will be longer at-bats with walks. That’s the player I envision myself being. The walks and all that stuff is the part I need to work on a little more.”

If Morrison can get it figured out, maybe just maybe there’s room for him on the expanded 26-man opening-day roster. He perhaps could bide his time at Triple-A San Antonio, but he has nothing to prove in the minors.

He just has to make himself valuable at the major-league level. And Morrison knows quite well what he’s capable of doing.

“As long the checks are checked off, I guess, then I’m going to be a dangerous presence in the lineup and put some points on the board,” Morrison said. “I’m not fast but I can put offense on the board really fast.”