Former Oriole Mike Morgan Blossoming With Dodgers

Baltimore Evening Sun

Eddie Murray is quietly producing as expected for the Dodgers, but of the four former Baltimore Orioles on the roster of the defending World Series champions, Mike Morgan is easily the most intriguing.

The right-handed pitcher is 3-1 with a 0.69 ERA. This time a year ago he was 0-5, and he never did win a game as a starter, despite opening as the No. 2 man in the rotation.

But Morgan insists there is very little difference, other than the results, between this year and last.


“I could have easily won my first three starts last year,” he said during the Dodgers’ three-game series against the Phillies here this weekend. “I’m not throwing any different now than I did then.”

The results indicate that might be an oversimplification. Morgan’s earned run average is the best in the National League. Instead of being a replacement for middle reliever Brian Holton (traded to the Orioles in the Murray deal), Morgan is locked in as the Dodgers’ fourth starter.

“The biggest difference is control,” Morgan said. “I’ve only walked three guys (in 39 innings), and I haven’t given up many hits (23) either.”

There has never been any question of Morgan’s physical ability. But his parade through six organizations since 1978, when he broke in with the A’s at age 18, raised doubt as to whether he would ever live up to his potential.

When the Orioles traded Morgan to the Dodgers for outfielder Mike Devereaux, they did so to clear a spot on the staff for a younger pitcher. “And I could have become a free agent at the end of the year,” Morgan said.

Landing with the Dodgers, and crossing paths with pitching coach Ron Perranoski, may have been the turning point Morgan was seeking. “Perry’s been working with me on a sinker,” Morgan said, “and he moved me over to the other side of the pitching rubber.


“Now, instead of running outside for a ball, my fastball is staying in the strike zone. Instead of always being behind the hitters, I’m getting ahead and I’m able to use the good, hard curve more often.

“Plus,” Morgan said, “I’m in a new league--they don’t know me, and I don’t know them. I don’t know whether that balances out or not, but everything is working out right now. We’re playing real good defense. Eddie has been great defensively and (former Oriole) John Shelby runs down everything in center field.

“This is an important year for me: A good season could get me three more (years on a contract). But the most important thing is that I get myself established as a winner. And what better place to do that than in Los Angeles?”

In his checkered career, Morgan had won barely more than a third of his decisions (34-68) entering this season. He got the opportunity to start for the Dodgers because of the injury to John Tudor and the uncertain condition of Fernando Valenzuela (0-3, 4.91 ERA).

Meanwhile, with Kirk Gibson sidelined most of the year, Murray has produced what little offense the Dodgers have been able to muster. His two home runs Sunday (Nos. 5 and 6) gave him 25 RBI in 34 games. After a disastrous start, both offensively and defensively, he has his average close to .300.

“He’s done exactly what we thought he would do,” said Manager Tommy Lasorda. “He’s a proven player, a great hitter, and he’s doing a great job for us.”


Murray’s problem is similar to his plight in Baltimore--a poor supporting cast. He has played every game, but Gibson and Mike Marshall have been in the lineup together only five times, and the team batting average is only .227. The Dodgers have reason to be concerned about Shelby (.171), Willie Randolph (.226) and Alfredo Griffin (.188 and on the disabled list).

They had a string of 24 straight scoreless innings before hammering the Phillies, 9-0, Sunday.

It was only the sixth win in 17 games on the road for the Dodgers, who are still relying on their pitching to stay within range of the National League West Division lead.