Actions speak louder than words for Morgan

Actions speak louder than words for Morgan

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nyjer Morgan has taken a quiet approach to Spring Training this year. Over the past few weeks, the energetic outfielder engaged in conversations with reporters, but politely declined all interviews.

With two weeks of workouts and a handful of games in the books, Morgan decided to entertain a few questions Saturday morning. Sitting at his locker, Morgan remained soft-spoken in explaining his goal this spring as one of Cleveland's non-roster bench candidates.

"When you're competing," Morgan said, "you've got to come to show what it's going to take to make the ballclub. This is the player I've always been, this type of guy. I'm always hungry. I'm always wanting to show my teammates, the organization that I'm with, that I come to win and come to help out an organization and a ballclub."

Indians manager Terry Francona has been impressed.

After Thursday's win over the Reds, Francona said one of his favorite moments was when -- in the midst of a 12-3 blowout -- Morgan still sprinted to back up third base on a play. In Friday's 4-0 win over Cincinnati, Morgan made a highlight-reel diving catch to rob Ramon Santiago of a hit in the fourth inning.

"This kid is motivated. He's enthusiastic," Francona said. "That doesn't mean he's going to make the club, but it doesn't mean that our first initial thoughts aren't really positive with him. I think he's been outstanding. He's fun to have around."

The 33-year-old Morgan could be fighting an uphill battle to make the Opening Day roster, considering Cleveland has three left-handed-hitting starting outfielders in Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn and David Murphy. Morgan also hits left-handed, but his speed and defensive ability make him an interesting bench option.

In parts of six big league seasons with the Pirates, Nationals and Brewers, Morgan has turned in a .280/.341/.364 slash line in 583 games. Last year, Morgan played for Yokohama in Japan, hitting .294 with a .434 on-base percentage and .361 slugging percentage, along with 28 extra-base hits and 50 RBIs in 108 games.

Morgan's famous alter ego, Tony Plush, has yet to appear. The outfielder has kept that side of his personality -- one that has rubbed some players the wrong way over the years -- quiet to this point in camp. Morgan wants to first focus on getting to know his new team, and giving his Tribe teammates a chance to really get to know him, too.

"A lot of them, they know me from playing against me," Morgan said. "But they don't know the other side of who I am. So just being able to show who I am, that makes me feel good as a person and as a ballplayer, too. Instead of going by the hearsay of what people are saying about me and this and that in the past, now they get to see the other side and know that, 'Hey, man, if I'm on your ballclub, I'm coming with it and I'm going to do everything I can to possibly help the team.'

"It can be any role. Coming off the bench. Making a defensive play. Anything. Backing up when you've got to back up. I'm very vocal. I like rooting on my guys and just showing that I'm there to fight with you guys no matter what."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.