With Tony Plush absent, Morgan makes roster

With Tony Plush absent, Morgan makes roster

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nyjer Morgan tried to keep a straight face, but the smile grew wider as he talked to a group of reporters on Monday morning. The outfielder came into Indians camp on a mission to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Mission accomplished.

"I wanted to come out here and prove to everybody that I'm a great player," Morgan said. "And more than likely, I can help this organization. I worked hard this offseason. Mentally, physically, I feel really prepared. I feel that I've earned this spot. I've earned this situation.

"Hard work is what got me here, and the hard work is definitely not going to stop."

A spot opened on Cleveland's roster after the club determined that Michael Bourn's left hamstring strain would necessitate a trip to the 15-day disabled list for the center fielder to begin the season. In Morgan, the Indians have a fleet-footed outfielder capable of manning center field and affecting a game on the basepaths.

In parts of six big league seasons, the 33-year-old Morgan has hit .280 with a .341 on-base percentage and a .364 slugging percentage in stints with the Pirates, the Nationals and the Brewers. Last year, Morgan played for Yokohama in Japan, turning in a .294/.361/.434 slash line in 108 games. The Tribe signed him to a Minor League contract on Jan. 16 as a potential reserve outfielder.

"Nyjer's had a really good camp," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He's come in and done everything we could've asked of him in the way he's played the game -- offensively, defensively -- and in the way he's gone about his business day to day."

Morgan -- famous for an alter ego, Tony Plush, that has rubbed some people the wrong way in the past -- maintained a low profile throughout camp with Cleveland this spring. With a new set of eyes on him, the energetic outfielder wanted to show whom he really was as a person and player.

"It was very important," Morgan said. "Just want to leave all the other mularky behind me and basically just show the new me, the new veteran, the guy I am. Basically, I wanted to show them who Nyjer Morgan is, and not Tony Plush."

Asked if Plush also made the Opening Day roster, Morgan laughed.

"Yeah, he made it," Morgan said. "He's here. I'll know when to bring him out."

Told of Morgan's comment, Francona cracked a smile.

"We didn't need to hear that," the manager joked. "We only have room for 25, so Nyjer makes it and Tony doesn't. He is not part of the team."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.