Morales' first HR for Toronto a 444-foot slam

Morales' first HR for Toronto a 444-foot slam

ST. PETERSBURG -- Blue Jays designated hitter Kendrys Morales opened the season with three warning track shots in three games. He made sure a fourth one would not be added to the list.

Morales unloaded on an 0-1 offering from Rays left-hander Blake Snell during the third inning of Thursday night's 5-2 victory over the Rays, sending it sailing deep into the seats at Tropicana Field for a grand slam. All anyone had to do was listen to the crack of the bat to know it was gone.

According to Statcast™, Morales' first home run of the season traveled an estimated 444 feet. It left his bat at 109 mph with a launch angle of 26 degrees and tied for the seventh-longest home run of his career during the Statcast™ era. To call it a no-doubter would be putting it mildly.

"We've only played three games, but he's barreling everything," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Morales, who also sent one to the warning track in the second inning. "He didn't have much to show for it, but I think he's locked in. He's feeling good. You get them at 'em balls, those balls that go to the track, in the summer when it heats up those balls are home runs. He looks good. He could very easily be hitting .500 right now."

The shot to deep left-center field was the fourth grand slam of Morales' career. The last one happened to come against the Blue Jays, when he went deep as a member of the Royals off the since departed Brett Cecil on Aug. 7, 2016. Gibbons joked after the game that when he watched Morales step into the box during the third inning, he had flashbacks to that previous homer. But unlike a year ago, this one actually came as welcome news to the Blue Jays.

Morales is no stranger to some of the bad luck he experienced during his first at-bats of the season. Last year he led the Major Leagues with the most outs on balls that were hit at least 375 feet. He had 17 of those in 2016, while Albert Pujols and Jose Altuve were tied for second at 16. During his first game with the Blue Jays, Morales experienced that all over again with an out on a blast that went 389 feet. But one way to avoid the problem is hitting it even farther.

"I've been feeling pretty good and thank God it happened today that it went out," Morales said through an interpreter. "But I've been feeling pretty good, and it was really good for me today. ... It's really hard to explain, because in that situation, you're not looking for pitches. He just threw me a fastball that I liked, and I put wood on it."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.