Morales moves on from tough start

Morales moves on from tough start

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Franklin Morales had his toughest outing of the spring, as he faced the Mariners on Friday, but he brushed it off quickly and continued to focus on preparing to pitch in the Rockies rotation when the team breaks camp in two weeks.

"I missed a lot of times in this game," Morales said, noting his difficulty hitting his spots. "Tomorrow is another game, another day. I'll forget about today. I don't care."

A quick recovery would be the best thing to come out of Friday's outing for Morales. If all had gone well, he probably would have pitched five innings, stretching himself out after his four-inning, one-run outing against the Giants on Sunday.

But things didn't go so well for Morales. He threw roughly 80 pitches, but lasted only 2 2/3 innings, yielding nine runs -- five earned -- on 10 hits, including two home runs, two walks, a wild pitch and a balk.

"Today wasn't his best outing," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. "He wasn't able to repeat his delivery today. He kept flying off the ball. He was very consistently up in the zone, so it wasn't a good outing."

Neither Morales nor Hurdle had their confidence shaken, however, with Morales already focused on regaining his ability to stay down in the strike zone and Hurdle unwavering in his respect for the 22-year-old left-hander who played a pivotal role in the Rockies rotation during their pennant chase and postseason run in '07.

"He didn't make the club after his last start," Hurdle said. "He didn't not make the club after this start.

"Did you watch the way he pitched last year? Did he ever pitch bad last year, with the exception of the World Series? He has work to do. That's as simple as you can put it. That's about as black and white as it can be. He just has work to do."

Morales was 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA in eight starts for the Rockies after being called up on Aug. 18. The Rockies won the last seven games he started, including one game in the Division Series and the pennant-clinching Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

"When I keep the ball down, it's very different for the hitter," Morales said. "He says, 'Franklin Morales, he's down. You gotta be careful.' I need to work down more. I tried to make my best pitch today, and I missed."

Morales recovered from his four-run first inning to pitch a relatively clean second inning, facing only three batters. He gave up a lead off hit to Ichiro Suzuki and walked Yuniesky Betancourt, but he picked off Ichiro at first and caught Betancourt stealing, ending the inning by inducing a pop to first base from Raul Ibanez.

His hard luck came in the third inning, when four unearned runs crossed the plate, but his determination to endure the rare struggles on the mound and keep coming after hitters made an impression.

He may have missed his spots Friday, but Morales has not missed his opportunity to return to the Rockies rotation.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.