Morton's power finally turning heads

Morton's power finally turning heads

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Much has been made of Colt Morton's ability to hit a baseball great distances. It's the sort of raw power that can turn heads and thrill scouts.

Morton, 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, has hit 70 home runs in 1,328 Minor League at-bats, and is 3-for-9 this spring, including an opposite-field, three-run home run in Tuesday's game.

"Raw power-wise, he's probably got as much as anybody in our Minor League system," bench coach Craig Colbert said.

Even so, no one was about to confuse Morton with Paul Bunyan when Morton was growing up in Florida.

"I actually didn't hit a home run until high school, none in Little League," Morton said. "I was always frustrated because I could never hit one out and all my friends would be hitting them out."

But around 10th grade, Morton said he hit a growth spurt, and by the time he got to college, he was no longer the little guy who could get it done behind the plate.

"I've always wanted to play professional baseball, so when I got into college, I looked for what my strengths were and worked at them," Morton said. "I realized I'm not going to be a runner or a bat-control guy."

Morton starred at North Carolina State, where he ranks fourth all-time with 44 home runs. He was a third-round selection by the Padres in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. At three levels last year, he batted .309 in 149 at-bats with 14 doubles, nine home runs and 24 walks. He threw out seven of 28 would-be basestealers.

After shoulder surgery delayed the start of his 2007 season, Morton spent 11 games on a rehab assignment with Rookie level Peoria before being sent to Class A Lake Elsinore. It took him only six games to earn a promotion to Double-A San Antonio.

During his short time with the Storm, Morton won the California League Player of the Week award for July 9-15 by hitting six doubles and three home runs in 16 at-bats.

Morton is expected to start this year in the Minor Leagues, but he got one at-bat with the Padres last September and is enjoying his experience in Spring Training this year.

"My locker mate is Greg Maddux, just talking to him is great ... the guy's a genius of baseball," Morton said. "Everyone's treating me very well."

Mark Thoma is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.