FORT MYERS, FLA. – Logan Morrison was introduced as a member of the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, as the visiting Tampa Bay Rays were getting ready to take batting practice at Hammond Stadium.
Morrison had played the previous two seasons with the Rays, and then left as a free agent – part of a major exodus of veteran players from the payroll-cutting franchise.
As with other significant free agents, it was a lengthy process for Morrison to find a new club – a Twins’ deal that is likely to turn out to be for two years and $16.5 million.
Asked about the wait for a new team, Morrison said to a group of media that included Rays reporters:
“I think as the guys from Tampa know, I’m not very patient. It was definitely a test.’’
Morrison might have been overstating that angle. Example A on this contrary view of Morrison’s alleged impatience would be his first six weeks as Tampa Bay’s first baseman in 2016.
He had to wait until May 17 – 28 games, 22 starts – before getting his first RBI. He was batting .119 with two doubles as his extra-base hits. On the 17th in Toronto, he finally delivered a run with a ground out, then knocked in another with a single.
The next day, Morrison hit his home run and was off on a hot streak. It was the first of 52 he would hit in two seasons with the Rays. And those first RBIs were also the start of the 20-game streak carrying into June when Morrison batted .423 with seven home runs and 18 RBI.
And Rays manager Kevin Cash told Marc Topkin, the baseball writer for the Tampa Bay Times, that the most-impressive part of this was the manner in which Morrison had maintained confidence in himself during that horrendous start to his Rays tenure.
“It was amazing how he carried himself,’’ Cash said. “Probably the most impressive personality for a month that I saw out of anybody I’ve been around in baseball for scuffling.
“He stayed positive. He continued to be a really good teammate … And he continued to get his work in constantly. I’m really happy for him how it turned around.’’
Morrison said to Topkin of his early Rays slump: “It was definitely a challenging time. But I never had a doubt I was ever going to hit again, or anything like that.’’
On Wednesday, Morrison walked into the small cafeteria in the bottom level of Hammond Stadium, looked at the 25 media people gathered informally and said, "This is how J.D. Martinez did it, right?", referring to J.D.'s signing with Boston.
There were Topkin and three other people who follow the Rays in attendance. Later, we were waiting for an elevator and they mentioned the consistency of Morrison’s big personality, and cited as an example that he never hid from that slump – answering questions and offering no excuses.
Morrison had been acquired from Seattle before the 2016 season. The Twins are the fourth team for the 30-year-old, following Miami, Seattle and Tampa Bay. He’s had a few controversies, including last year’s complaint that the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez wound up in the Home Run Derby rather than him.
He was on Twitter before most athletes were aware of its existence, but signed off cold turkey a while back after stirring up people with some impolitic comments.
He was asked Wednesday about some of the toughest questions asked by the Twins as they talked about making a deal. Morrison said one of those was, “Why did you change your ways from being a younger player?’’
Morrison mentioned being a father now, a family man, but he also said this:
“I stopped thinking so much about myself. Listen, anybody that tells you they’re a team guy first, there is no ‘I’ in team but there is a ‘me.’ You have to take care of yourself first before you can help other players. Being able to learn that has helped me.’’
Interpretation: Morrison had to become a more stable presence if he was going to be a positive influence on less-experienced teammates as a competitor and in the clubhouse.
The 20-minute vibe from Morrison was that he could become a decade-younger version of Torii Hunter and the influence provided in Torii’s last, outstanding season with the Twins in 2015:
The veteran who brought the fun to go with production. And like Hunter, Morrison works at it.
Four hours after his introduction, the Rays had finished a 3-1 exhibition victory over the Twins and the players were starting to get into civilian clothes in the home clubhouse.
I asked a clubhouse worker if Miguel Sano had vamoosed and he said: “No. He’s still in the back, working out.’’
Miguel? “Oh … I thought you meant Morrison,’’ he said. “Miguel left. Morrison’s still back there, lifting, working the machines. The guy’s an animal.’’