Pirates Notebook: Morris shrugs off money matters

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ATLANTA -- He will make more than Sidney Crosby this season.

More than Ben Roethlisberger.

And about half that of the entire Florida Marlins roster he will face tonight in Miami.

But ask Matt Morris, and he is adamant that he will not allow his $10,037,283 salary to define his 2008 season ... at least, not the way he defines it.

"Look, if I win 25 games, that's $400,000 a game, right? That's not going to work in my favor no matter what I do," he said, smiling after a tossing session yesterday at Turner Field. "But I understand. Those are just distractions, whether it's things said in the media or by fans. Everybody has their right to an opinion. But my job is to block all that out and pitch."

Minor-league report
Thursday's games
  • INDIANAPOLIS (0-1) lost at Pawtucket, 3-0, to open its season. RHP Bryan Bullington (0-1, 5.40) allowed three runs and five hits, including a home run, in five innings. He struck out three and walked two. RHP Marino Salas (0.00) pitched two scoreless innings of relief with three strikeouts and a walk. The Indians had only one hit, that by 1B Adam Boeve (1.000), who also drew two walks.
  • ALTOONA (0-1) lost to Reading, 8-3, to open its season. LHP Kyle Bloom (0-1, 14.73) allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings. RHP Pat Bresnehan (0.00) pitched two scoreless innings of relief with three strikeouts. RF Brad Corley (.667) went 2 for 3 with a double, triple and RBI. 1B Jason Delaney (.500) went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs.
  • LYNCHBURG opens its season tonight at Frederick. LHP Tony Watson will start.
  • HICKORY had its season opener against West Virginia rained out.

He acknowledged that has not been easy, particularly since being traded to the Pirates in July. For this season, his pay will consume 20 percent of their $50.8 million payroll.

"Yeah, it was an odd fit for me even when it happened. If you look at our payroll on paper, you can say, 'What the heck is this guy doing on there? He's not at the beginning of the career. He's at the end.' But I'm just here to pitch and to be part of this team. And I feel like, from the standpoint of my teammates, that I do fit in. I really enjoy being with these guys."

Morris knows a little about contracts: He negotiated his three-year, $27 million deal in 2002, though he now is represented by agent Barry Axelrod.

His current deal, signed out of free agency with the San Francisco Giants two years ago, increased from a $5 million salary in the first year to more than double now.

"That's what happens when you backload a contract," Morris said. "You're getting paid more for what you achieved early in your career than when you're older. And I know that. I can't pitch for this money."

Morris' more realistic -- and modest -- pitching goal is related to shaking off a spring in which he had an 8.32 ERA and gave up 45 hits in 24 2/3 innings.

"Physically, I feel great. The last couple years, I think my arm slot was affected by coming back from injuries. I wasn't getting that extension I needed, especially for the sinker. I feel like that's coming back."

Caution for Sanchez

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who acknowledged feeling more right shoulder discomfort late in the game Wednesday, made it through only five innings last night before manager John Russell replaced him with Luis Rivas for defensive purposes.

Sanchez -- somewhat stiff from the cold, according to Russell -- was throwing even more gingerly than usual, including a glaring lollipop on a close play at first in the third inning.

Sanchez reported feeling "completely fine" in the afternoon, but Russell made clear at the same time that he would be cautious.

"We want to make sure the shoulder doesn't get irritated again," Russell said. "We don't expect any of our guys to play 162 games, and there's a chance we'll give Freddy a day off."

Wilson at No. 2

Russell's spring pledge to keep Jack Wilson involved atop the order was followed through: He had Wilson at No. 2 last night, bumping down the usual middle of the order. Ronny Paulino, making his season debut, took Wilson's place at No. 8.

Again, get used to it.

"Jack gives us a versatile bat, and he can do some things up there," Russell said. "As I've said, we're going to put up the lineup that's the best fit for that night."

Buried treasure

• How to explain the Pirates and Atlanta Braves, fairly respectable defensive teams, each struggling so much with routine grounders? Each committed four errors in the series, all by infielders and most coming on plays that would be made on most of the offending players' sleep. Perhaps the key was the cold: Only one error was made in the middle game of the set, the only one played in warm weather.

• Since opening the season with a double and single, Adam LaRoche is hitless in 12 at-bats, including seven strikeouts. His final strikeout last night was especially ugly, lunging way outside for a Royce Ring slider.

Jason Bay, in stark contrast, has reached base in seven of his past eight plate appearances, including five walks. Still searching for that first extra-base hit, though.

• Among the many traits the Pirates already appreciate about newcomer Tyler Yates, in addition to that 97-mph fastball, is a sense that he can be a workhorse. "We're not going to abuse him," Russell said. "But he's a strong guy, and he can take the ball." He has pitched in all three games.

• Yates, a Hawaii native, did a phone interview with the ESPN radio affiliate in Hilo, Hawaii.


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