Tim Lincecum was about three hours from his start against the Mets last night when Matt Morris pulled him into the back corner of the San Francisco Giants' clubhouse. Morris had a gift.
Tim Lincecum was about three hours from his start against the Mets last night when Matt Morris pulled him into the back corner of the San Francisco Giants' clubhouse.
Morris had a gift.
And you should have seen the grin when Lincecum opened the box and pulled out three dress shirts and two pair of slacks.
"That's awesome. Matt bought me a suit last year," teammate Noah Lowry says. "For someone who is such a big name, and had that career, he's always helping out. That's something I'll always respect him for. Then getting to know him as a person, makes him that much better."
Morris, now 32 with graying sideburns, is the senior man in the Giants' starting rotation. Lincecum, a boyish-looking 22-year-old, looks as though he should be pitching at Valley Central — Morris' old high school.
Now in his 11th year, Morris has embraced the idea of passing down his knowledge of the game to the next generation. He grew tight last year with Lowry and Matt Cain — the two other young guns in the Giants' rotation — even though he struggled through the first losing season of his career (10-15).
"I used to be a guy who used to think through everything, the night before, then hours before the game, this and that," Lowry says. "He always told me, 'Take three hours out there and try to do your best.' That really just simplifies things, and that's something that still sticks in my mind."
"Matt took care of me on and off the field," Cain says. "People look at you a different way because you're in the public eye. You've got to represent yourself and the team that you're with. He's done a great job with me."
Leaning back in a locker across the room is reliever Steve Kline, who spent four years with Morris in St. Louis.
"Look at him. It's like watching Darryl Kile over there," Kline says. "They were very tight. Matt had some great years with the Cardinals, but never really had those young guys to pass things along to. He teaches the things he was taught."
Morris (5-2, 2.90 ERA) has made a nice turnaround on the field, though the Mets won't see him during this three-game series. He'll start Friday at Philadelphia.
Morris took some time before last night's game to talk about the evolution of his career.
What's the difference between this year and last year?
"I get asked that a lot. It could be just being comfortable in a new city and a new environment. I've got a year under my belt. I think I'm releasing the ball better. My arm feels free and loose. It's not so much in the velocity, but the action. My sinker's got a lot more bite. The curveball's got my bite. The slider and the cutter, I'm throwing those well. So I think I'm able to get out in front more."
But you were hurt last year, right?
"Yeah, I had fractured ribs. I tried to keep it to myself, but it ended up getting out late. It was something I thought I could get through because I thought it would be more beneficial. Looking back, it wasn't for me. But I thought it was maybe more beneficial for some of the guys to realize you don't have to go down every time you're hurt. But I didn't really know the severity of it, either."
You enjoy that role, don't you?
"I've always tried to be that guy, not so much do the right thing, but preach the right thing. Leading by example is something people remember. The visual effect. It's been fun. We've got a nice mix, with (Barry) Zito and myself and this young guys. Noah with three years and the other two guys (Cain and Lincecum) are 22. Everybody's having a good time and the pitching's coming around.
So how do you know when to talk?
"It's funny. Sometimes the longer your career goes on, the less you say. You've experienced more, but it hasn't always been right, but it might be right. Just like pitching. The more you know, the more complicated it gets sometimes. You get some guys talking that don't know, and that's a problem, as well. You just develop a relationship, and you can tell how they respond.
"I love taking guys to dinner, and the game has allowed me to do that. People have allowed me to have the knowledge to do that. Even growing up, my parents used to say, 'If you tip someone, it will always come back to you.' Not that I'm looking for that, but you know what I mean."
What do they ask?
"It's not only me, just any guy they try to bum things off. It might be, 'My wife is coming to the hotel.' You know, stuff off the field, showing them the way we do it here. Or mostly pitching stuff. It's been cool. I enjoy that. Hopefully, I'm leading guys in the right way."
When Marlboro graduate Dermal Brown broke in with the Royals, did you know Jermaine Dye took him out and bought him clothes
"That's funny you mention that. (Morris picks up the unopened box at his locker.) These are shirts and slacks I had made up for Lincecum. That's what I did with Cain and Lowry last year. Tim will be excited to get these. That's stuff that was passed down to me from Darryl Kile."
Was he your Matt Morris?
"For sure. It was good learning from him, and he taught me some great things. He used to say that when you did well, give credit to your teammates. When you do bad, take the blame."
When did you become that guy?
"I always wanted to, but there wasn't always that chance. You just get more comfortable passing it on. Especially with these guys. I don't even know half the league anymore, and at one time they were me. Like when Andy Benes used to talk. I knew he threw 100 mph at one time, but I never saw that, so it was hard for me to believe.
"So now when Tim Lincecum hears Mo used to throw 94 mph sinkers, it's just funny. That's the way the game goes. I've really accepted my role as a pitcher as far it's the mental part now. I'm not blowing much by guys, but if I slow them down enough, I can."
So you're obviously happy with your place here?
"It's a place I never thought I'd be, at this point, still going. Just from the competition aspect of it. I've always wanted to try, but sometimes your body just doesn't let you do it. Sometimes the other team doesn't let you.
"It's refreshing, too, because I learn a lot from them. They've got that attitude like when I was coming up. 'I'm just going to throw it by the guy.' That does make sense. Maybe I'll try that (he laughs). I may have to do it in a different way. Maybe after a change-up."
If people didn't know you were hurt last year, do you think maybe they thought you were starting to lose it?
"I think the opposition has respect for me. I've earned that over the years. Whatever happened last year, I've talked to guys that I'm friends with, that I've competed against, they told me, 'You didn't look the same. Now we know.' You can tell when somebody is off — Randy Johnson or not. And when you're competing, you don't feel off."
You're close to getting your career winning percentage back up to .600 (116-79 lifetime). That's pretty rarefied air in this game. Does your place in this game statistically matter to you much?
"I just want to have a winning record for the Giants now. After last year (10-15), maybe I can have a couple of great years, and this year could be a great year. I believe it. There was even a point in the year last year when I didn't believe it. Sometimes you need that kick in the pants."
So how's the whole Bonds chase going?
"It was crazier last year when he was chasing Babe Ruth. I'm sure it will get crazier when he gets closer. All these media people are here for Barry Bonds, so that takes the pressure off people. He's smart enough to almost time it the way he wants it."