Red Sox stopper Morales spends day in Fan Cave

Red Sox stopper Morales spends day in Fan Cave

Red Sox stopper Morales spends day in Fan Cave
NEW YORK -- During the 2007 World Series, Franklin Morales was a 21-year-old rookie left-hander out of Venezuela with a 97-mph fastball and unlimited potential. He came out of the Rockies' bullpen twice to pitch against the Red Sox, just two months after being called up to the Majors, and he was initiated immediately on FOX.

In Game 1 at Fenway Park, Morales was brought in by manager Clint Hurdle to relieve shelled starter Jeff Francis to start the fifth inning. Boston proceeded to bat around on him. That Fall Classic was pretty much over then and there -- a sweep.

Morales left with the bases loaded and an out to go that inning, and replacement Ryan Speier immediately walked in all three of his runners. For Morales, it was seven earned runs on six hits, one walk and a balk to go with it. It was a public nightmare that made unbiased fans cover their eyes and squirm uncomfortably.

The kid also would appear in Game 3 back at Coors Field, and that time he would throw two scoreless innings. Morales had tasted Fall Classic intensity. A big career loomed, no doubt about it. If he could come back from that night in 2007, he could do anything.

On Friday, before heading up to Yankee Stadium for the start of a big series, the same Franklin Morales who was once humbled by the Red Sox visited the MLB Fan Cave as a Boston reliever, invited along with his fiancée and several family members. It has been a long road since then. It has taken longer than expected for the Venezuelan power pitcher to become a recognizable face around Major League Baseball, but the 2012 season appears to be what many people have waited for in the last five years: a Red Sox bright spot.

"Yeah, everybody knows what happened," Morales said, sitting in the throne next to the 15-screen Cave Monster. "In Boston, everybody likes baseball. That's good."

What would it mean to get back on that same stage, to find late-October redemption?

"When everybody is together, everybody is on the same page, things are going to be better," said Morales, who made four scoreless appearances for the Rockies against Philadelphia in the 2009 National League Division Series loss. "That's a good situation we were in. I played 2007 in my first World Series because it was my first year, and right now, I play with the Red Sox, and I try to do the best that I can. I try to do the things to go the playoffs.

"We have a pretty good chance. Everybody is trying to do their job, everybody works hard every day to make adjustments. I think we're going to be OK."

Morales no doubt expected to be back on a postseason stage with Boston after it purchased his contract from Colorado in May 2011. The Red Sox were heavy favorites to reach the postseason last year, yet they finished third in the American League East after the late collapse.

So far this season, Morales has done just about everything expected of him. Nineteen of his 26 relief appearances have been scoreless, including 15 of the last 20 (2.78 ERA, seven earned runs in 22 2/3 innings). He has allowed runs just twice in his last 28 road appearances in relief (0.92 ERA in 29 1/3 innings). That stretch began with a 23-game road scoreless streak (20 1/3 innings) -- from June 28, 2011, to May 16 of this season -- the most consecutive scoreless outings on the road ever by a Red Sox lefty.

When the Sox needed a starter to fill in for Josh Beckett, Morales allowed 10 earned runs in 26 1/3 innings over five starts, going 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA. He struck out 31 against eight walks, and held opponents to a .220 average. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he was the first left-handed pitcher ever with seven or more strikeouts in his first three starts for the Red Sox.

"I feel good. Mentally, I feel healthy," Morales said. "When I go in to pitch, I try to let it go, to do my thing, to take the opportunity Bobby [Valentine] gave me and my teammates, my pitching coach [Bob McClure], [bullpen coach] Gary Tuck, and I try to do my job every time I go out there."

Morales is holding left-handed batters to a .198 clip (54-for-273) overall in his Major League career, which is a pretty good sign that he is going to be around a long time, maybe long enough to get back on that World Series stage.

Don't be surprised to see him on the World Baseball Classic stage for the first time next spring. Now that the host ballparks have been announced, gradual announcements will be coming regarding the schedule, ticket on-sale dates and the participating players. Morales made it clear that he hopes to break from the Red Sox camp to pitch for his own nation.

"Oh yeah, I want to go to the World Baseball Classic with Venezuela," he said, "because you are going to represent where you are from. Everybody knows you in your country, and you need to be there. That's a good thing."

There is one catch for him right now: The Yankees have been his biggest bump in the schedule. Morales has surrendered five homers in 2012, and four of them were hit by the Yankees in his start against them on July 7 at Fenway. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings, allowing six earned runs.

"You know what, everybody needs to stay close to enjoy the game, to play the game," Morales said of his club. "That's a good series starting tonight."

As curious New Yorkers stood around him, Morales flashed his personality and taped footage for upcoming videos that will appear on He signed the autograph wall, shot billiards with Red Sox balls, and raced his young nephew on the Firestone-sponsored slot-car track. "That was the coolest part for him," Morales said of his nephew. "He said, 'I like it over here.'

"It's the best for the fans. To be here is a great spot to enjoy the games."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.