Morban Opening Some Eyes

PULASKI, VA - At 23, Pulaski Yankees pitcher Jhon Morban is one of the more experienced players in the locker room. Having played for five teams in the Yankee’s organization, Morban has finally settled into a rotational position in Pulaski and, despite his older age, he's opening some eyes now.

Of the five teams he’s appeared for within the Yankee’s organization, Morban has worn three different uniforms just this season alone. His stays with Tampa and Staten Island were short-lived, but Morban has made the most of his time in the Appalachian League.

Pulaski currently sits atop the Appalachian League East standings, and Morban is an integral part of the rotation that got them there. Despite a 2-5 record, Morban ranks second on the team in innings pitched (47) and third in strikeouts (45). His 3.85 ERA is solid.

With Morban though, Pulaski’s coaching staff sees more than the numbers.

“When he throws the baseball, you’ll notice him. He’s got a big arm,” manager Tony Franklin said. “Look at his physical size: his legs, his big back and long arms. That’s every indication that he should be in somebody’s starting rotation on every fifth day.”

“He’s a big guy. He can withstand a lot of innings,” pitching coach Justin Pope added. “His velocity is really good; he can get it up to 95. He’s got a plus arm.”

Morban is listed at 6-foot-4, 226 pounds, and he looks every bit of that. The physicality is there, but now, Morban must continue to focus on the little things to get him to the next level.

Pope says that his main focuses with Morban throughout this season have been with command, location and maintaining a routine, all things that Morban says he’s been working on since the offseason.

“In Extended [Spring Training], I was working hard and focusing on my daily pitching routines. I was trying to work on locating my pitches better,” said Morban, with the help of a translator. “This year, I’ve been working on my delivery and my breaking pitches.”

Pope offered more insight on Morban’s development.

“He’s made some good strides this year," Pope said. :Early in the season, his delivery was kind of out of whack, but he’s worked hard to get his delivery in sync, kind of repeating himself a lot more now. He’s got a good arm, but now we’ve just got to work on getting his curveball over for strikes and some action on his changeup for him to have three quality pitches.”

Morban, who says he’s most comfortable throwing his fastball that ranges anywhere from 91-96 mph, also offers a curveball that ranges from 78-81 mph and a changeup that sits between 83-85 mph.

Morban and Pope expressed a mutual comfort level in the pitcher’s heater.

“His fastball is coming along really nice,” Pope opined. “He’s starting to locate it a lot better than he was at the beginning of the season.”

The beginning of the season was rocky for Morban. He picked up his first victory in his seventh outing of the year on July 30 against Kingston.

Franklin discussed Morban’s start with brutal honesty.

“His first couple of starts, maybe first three starts, he was terrible. They were terrible,” Franklin admitted. “He had some trouble commanding and throwing the fastball.

"As a pitcher, you’ve got to throw the ball over the middle of the plate, and he wasn’t doing it. Fortunately, with work, conversation, video and the realization that you’re walking too many guys and not giving your guys the chance to play defense for you, things came together.”

Morban’s numbers from his previous outing are evidence that things just may be coming together after all. In 5.1 innings of relief work against Bluefield, he allowed seven hits, one earned run and one walk while fanning five. He finished with a no-decision.

“I was only focused on doing my job. I felt like I gave our team a good opportunity to win,” Morban said. “Sometimes, it’s not going to happen the way you want it to, but I know that our team is good enough to come out every day and compete. And that’s what I did: compete to give our team a chance.”

Franklin was equally as pleased with his pitcher’s solid outing.

“His [previous] start was extremely good in my eyes,” Franklin said. “He went out there and threw strikes from the beginning of the game until the time he came out. That’s a lot of progress that he made in my eyes.”

Morban followed that outing up with another solid effort on Tuesday night, tossing another five innings while allowing just four hits and one earned run, giving him a 1.69 ERA over his last four games.

Even though his coaches are happy with the progress he’s made thus far, Morban knows that he must take his work ethic home to San Cristobal, Dominican Republic where he will train this offseason.

“In the offseason, I’m going to work on my curveball. That’s what I need the most work on,” Morban admitted. “But I also need to keep focusing on my changeup and finding the strike zone, just trying to throw every pitch for a strike. I think those things will help me to be in a good spot next year.”

Like any player in the minor leagues, Morban says his dream is to crack a big league roster someday. With his steady improvement this year and work this offseason, Morban believes that his time will ultimately come.

Franklin also believes that Morban will get his chance in due time.

“Of course, he’ll find out more about his craft and what it takes to be a major league starter, which is not an easy thing to do, Franklin said. “But my goodness gracious, I think this kid has the makings of a pretty good starting pitcher at the Major League level.”

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