A Sign of Relief: Q&A with Erik Morrison

It is quite likely that with the signing of Erik Morrison, the Yankees may have an elite relief pitching prospect on their hands. With that in mind, why not get to know the newest Yankee prospect right away. We caught up with Erik for a PinstripesPlus.com exclusive interview.

PinstripesPlus: First of all, Erik, welcome aboard. Tell us, when teams first started bidding on you, did you know right off the bat that it would probably come down to you signing with the Yankees?

Erik Morrison: Well, there was a few different teams in on it. But, you know whenever there is a bidding war, it always seems to be the Yankees coming out on top. They usually get what they want. So, no, I wasn't totally sure, but I thought the Yankees were a very good possibility for me.

PinstripesPlus: Before we move on, let's note that you are one of the finalists for the Stopper of the Year Award, an award for the best NCAA closer in the country. What would it mean to you to receive that award?

Erik Morrison: Yeah, I really had a great year at Ball State. I did everything I could to help my team win and I'm just real happy with how it turned out. I just wish we could have gone a little further as a team, but that's baseball. But, it would be great to win an award like that if I were to get it. Yeah, it would be great. I'm just real happy I pitched well enough to be considered.

PinstripesPlus: Erik, since you are very new to the farm system, can you give us a a brief description of your repertoire?

Erik Morrison: Sure. I have a four-seam fastball. I don't throw really, really hard but my fastball is good. I've touched 94 MPH on occasion but I am usually somewhere between 92-94 MPH. And, I also have a two-seam fastball. That's a good pitch for me. That is usually like 90-93 MPH. I also have a pretty good slider. That is like 78-82 MPH. There is also my changeup. Usually that is somewhere in the low-80's for the most part.

PinstripesPlus: How did you become a closer? Was it just something you started doing this past year or so, or have you done it at other levels as well?

Erik Morrison: Last year, 2004, was just about getting back for me. I had surgery on my rotator cuff in June of 2002, so it took me a long time to get back. It just seemed like such a long time for me. I couldn't contribute in 2003 and my velocity was down. It was a long road back. So, I was relieving in 2004 and I started getting back to where I should be with my velocity and everything. So, I became the regular closer this year. I was just excited to get the opportunity.

PinstripesPlus: At this point, have the Yankees given you any indication as to where you will begin your professional career?

Erik Morrison: Yeah, and it looks like I am going to be up in Staten Island to start off. After the draft is over and everything, I'll get ready to go up there and pitch. I've been told that I'm up for the closing position there as well. But, I'm not going to take anything for granted. As far as I know, there will be other guys and I'll have to compete with them for the job.

PinstripesPlus: Have you already reported to Tampa to begin preparing yourself?

Erik Morrison: Yeah, I got down here on Thursday. I didn't do all that much the first day but on the second day I threw on the side a little bit. Then, today (Saturday, June 4th), I threw a bullpen session, throwing just fastballs and changeups to start off. I haven't throw in over a week so we started it off slow. After the draft and everything else is all done, I'll start pitching some simulated games and stuff like that to get ready to go up to Staten Island.

PinstripesPlus: What do you think is the key, for you, to be a successful closer at any level?

Erik Morrison: Well, the key to closing is always to have confidence. If you don't have confidence, there's no way you can be successful coming in late in the game. When I go out there, I go out knowing that i can get the job done. It is all about the mindset you bring to the mound.

PinstripesPlus: Signing with a team like the New York Yankees, did it have any different meaning for you?

Erik Morrison: To be honest, I don't think it really hit me until I got down here to Tampa. Then, I realized that I was really a Yankee. It doesn't really sink in until you can live it. It is definitely different becoming a Yankee, but I wouldn't say I had a real preference either. I just dreamed about playing professional baseball. But, getting signed by the Yankees only adds to it.

PinstripesPlus: Erik, was the draft an option that you considered at all this year or were you set on signing before the draft?

Erik Morrison: I don't think entering the draft was ever really a strong possibility. I talked to my coach and we thought the best way for me to go was sign before the draft. I would get more money that way. I mean, most times, fifth years seniors are lucky to get a $2,500 bonus. And by signing before the draft, I go a $15,000 bonus. That's a huge difference. My coach though I would probably go in the first 15 rounds of the draft, which is real high for a fifth year senior, but signing before was definitely the better option for me.

PinstripesPlus: What improvements would you like to make as you turn pro?

Erik Morrison: My changeup. I would definitely like to improve my changeup. I've got to get better with that. I want to be able to keep hitters off balance as much as possible. To do that, I'll need a better changeup. That's one of my biggest goals.

PinstripesPlus: How would you describe your overall style as a pitcher?

Erik Morrison: Well, I'm a sinker, slider pitcher. But, my style comes down to me trying to keep the hitters guessing. I want to be as consistent as possible. I think really that is the most important thing actually. Consistency is the key.

PinstripesPlus: Have you ever considered the idea of possibly being the heir to Mariano Rivera since signing with the Yankees?

Erik Morrison: I actually have thought about Mo quite a bit. I mean, just making it to the big leagues first would be great. But, I've thought about it. My friends have been saying stuff like "Oh, Mariano won't be around forever. You could have a chance to replace him." So, it is definitely a good thought. And, it is true that even great pitchers don't last forever. I'll just have to do whatever I can to get to that level first.

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Erik Morrison for his time and efforts in answering these questions. We will also be checking in with Erik from time to time to check in on his progress.

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