SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Clearly, something was wrong with Giants pitcher Matt Morris the second half of last season. He felt a jab of pain when he coughed or sneezed, and even deep breathing was labored due to soreness in his lower back, yet an MRI revealed nothing amiss. While competing from late July through September, the 10-year veteran could still pitch somewhat effectively as competitive adrenaline surged through his body, but his workouts were limited.
Morris' record fell from 7-7 at the All-Star break to 3-8 with a 5.85 ERA in his final 15 games, and it wasn't until the last day of the season when a more broader MRI showed fractured ribs. Never one to make excuses, the 32-year-old Morris never told the media or even teammates about the constant soreness and discomfort. He just tried to do his best to help the team. "I wish it was never even [revealed]," he said of the eventual diagnosis. "At that point, what's the sense? The season was over. I was kind of upset that it was leaked in the first place." A macho mentality? Sure, and when the other pitchers learned of the injury, Morris' already elevated status as a gamer was secure. "He sucked it up, flat out," said reliever Jack Taschner. "That's a man there, a true leader. What was our best option at the time? There wasn't anyone else available to pitch." Even rookie Matt Cain, who often flung Frisbees in pregame outfield sessions with Morris and shared a close relationship with the veteran, was unaware of the injury. "He kept it to himself -- I guess he didn't want it to affect anybody," said Cain. "We didn't find out until the last start, and he just kept going out there like normal." Still, the fracture partially explains Morris statistical deterioration, why a 14-game winner for St. Louis in 2005 became a 15-game loser a season later, why observers wondered why Morris would log a 4.98 ERA overall, highest of his career. And why he closed the year on a four-game losing skid, during which he had a 7.42 ERA. Pain-free now after a long winter's rest, Morris is looking forward to a better campaign and says 2006 worked out for the best despite the injury, probably caused by the physical stress and torque of pitching.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.