OAKLAND -- Nyjer Morgan arrived to Spring Training as a long shot to open the season on the big league roster with the Indians. On Monday, the outgoing center fielder was in the leadoff spot for the Tribe's Opening Day lineup against the A's.
Morgan was honored to have the chance to begin Cleveland's 2014 campaign.
"It means a lot," Morgan said. "A lot of hard work put me here. The hard work doesn't stop. I have the opportunity to go out there and make something happen for the boys. I'm just going to stay within my game and do whatever I can to help this organization."
Morgan, 33, signed a Minor League contract with Cleveland in January and came into camp as a non-roster invitee during the spring. An injury to starting center fielder Michael Bourn, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring issue, cleared Morgan's path to the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder.
Indians manager Terry Francona weighed a variety of options for the lineup's leadoff spot, but settled on Morgan due to his blend of speed and on-base ability. Francona said the fact that Bourn is progressing well, and might not be shelved for too long, also played a role in the decision to go with Morgan.
"Nyjer showed us some of the things he can do," Francona said. "And in a short span, he can do some things offensively that maybe can sway a game in our favor. And, it doesn't upset the rest of the lineup. If I thought Bourny was going to be a month or something, then maybe you start mixing and matching."
Morgan spent last season with Yokohama in Japan, where he posted a .294/.434/.795 slash line in 108 games. In six Major League seasons with the Pirates, Nationals and Brewers, Morgan hit .280 with a .341 on-base percentage and .364 slugging percentage in 583 games.
Morgan said he likes the look of Cleveland's lineup.
"There's a lot of firepower in there," he said. "From top to bottom, everybody is the right piece of the puzzle to help keep everything in motion from last year. As long as we can all just do our little part to make this team successful, I think we're going to have a lot of success."
As for his role going forward with the Tribe, Morgan said he is not getting too caught up in the details.
"I just plan on just showing up every day with a smile on my face," Morgan said. "I'm just so happy to be here and I'll be ready to go any time my name is called."