BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -Matt Morris is, in many ways, exactly the type of pitcher the Pittsburgh Pirates need. He's a dependable starter with a quality pedigree who welcomes the opportunity to mentor a young staff.
At the same time, he seems to understand that his status is tenuous at best because of his $9.5 million salary, roughly 20 percent of the team's $50 million payroll. The Pirates' new management tried to trade him this offseason and undoubtedly will continue to do so.
Morris doesn't seem bothered much by it. To the contrary.
``I'm just getting ready for the season,'' he said. ``That's all you can really concentrate on because that other stuff is out of your hands.''
Morris understands that raising his value for his pending free agency - he can be eligible after the coming season if a $9 million club option is bought out - might be easier elsewhere. The Pirates have had 15 consecutive losing seasons and made few roster moves this winter.
``It's obviously harder on a team that's not as experienced,'' Morris said. ``To come over here and try to raise your stock is not a good move, but it's still baseball, it's still competing, and it seems like the organization is going in the right direction. I'm happy to be a part of it.''
Morris was acquired in July by Dave Littlefield, the general manager at the time, perhaps because of an urgency to improve the team immediately when it became clear Littlefield's job was in jeopardy. The move might have contributed to Littlefield's firing about six weeks later.
New management, led by team president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington, have stressed caution with their spending. Coonelly and Huntington have made no secret that they don't see Morris' salary fitting into their current payroll, but each also has stressed that they do see him fitting in with the team itself.
``Without question,'' Huntington said. ``Matt brings a tremendous veteran presence, and he's a guy who wants to help young pitchers develop and mature. Above and beyond that, he still has some outs in him. He can still go out there and give this team a chance to win every fifth day.''
The 33-year-old Morris has 121 career wins and finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2001 with the St. Louis Cardinals. He said his primary focus is shaking off a poor second half from 2007. He went 7-5 with a 3.55 ERA before the All-Star break, all with the San Francisco Giants, and 3-6 with a 6.70 ERA afterward.
``The biggest thing is just going to be staying focused,'' Morris said. ``I'm confident I'll get back to where I was.''
He also has made a priority of working with the Pirates' other starters: Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke, all 26 or younger.
``I know what my job is between the lines. It's to go out and perform and compete hard and try to win ballgames,'' Morris said. ``When it's not my turn to take the ball, if I can help in any way, whether it's mentoring the young guys or just paying attention to how our team plays, I'll do that.''
Notes: RHP Byung-Hyun Kim isn't in camp yet. ... 2B Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) continued to throw at an estimated 50 percent during infield drills.
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