After allowing three walks in his 2021 Spring Training debut, Padres lefty Adrian Morejon struck out the final three batters he faced, ending his first outing on a positive note.
Taking the bump with a lineup chock full of what figures to be the starting nine, Adrian Morejon looked to set the tone for the Padres in game one of the spring exhibitions. Last year, Morejon turned 21 years of age in his second spring training start, striking out Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon back-to-back in an eye-opening outing.
Morejon faced ten batters on Sunday, but things didn’t go as smoothly, at least not at first. Through the first seven batters, the Padres lefty allowed two hits, including an RBI single off the bat of Kyle Seager, to even the score at one apiece. Morejon, who displayed much better command in 2020, found himself in trouble, walking three batters, including two in his final inning of work.
With two on and nobody out, Morejon settled in, striking out Tom Murphy, Jake Fraley, and J.P. Crawford in succession, with two-of-three via swing and miss putouts.
Adrián Morejón strikes out final three batters in second inning after walking the first two.
— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) February 28, 2021
Morejon was tabbed the Spring Training opener a few days ago, and manager Jayce Tingler touched on what he expected to see from the 21-year-old.
“I’d love to see take what he’s been working on all offseason, through these bullpens and live BP’s, and see if he can control his heart rate and being able to execute what he’s been doing,” Tingler said. “It’s throwing his fastball over and mixing his secondary and just pounding the zone with the good stuff that he has, and the ability, if necessary, to use the defense behind him.”
With a crowded rotation, Morejon looks to be headed for another bullpen role in 2021. Last season, the La Habana, Cuba native, made nine appearances – including four starts – and struck out 25 batters in only 19.1 innings.
Morejon actually pitched much better in a starting pitching role, fanning 14 batters in 9.1 innings – 13.5K/9 compared to 9.9 K/9 in a relief role. Granted, Morejone’s starts were an inning or two in the Padres regularly scheduled bullpen days. He held batters to a .216 average as a starter compared to .316 from the bullpen, so there’s a lot of flexibility in how he will be used this season.
“He’s capable of doing a lot of different roles. The one thing we know, if he’s prepared to start, he can slide into other roles. If we’re preparing him to be a one-inning, late-inning guy, we really handcuff ourself there. He’s going to get the opportunity to start, and that’s where we’re going to go, and we can adjust off that.”
As noted, Morejon showed remarkably improved command last season, yielding just four walks all season. The first start of the spring exhibitions can always be a mixed bag, as pitchers are shaking off the offseason rust. Regardless, every inning is critical to showcase well in what projects to be tight roster battles both in the rotation and in the bullpen.