Nature has thrown Jack Morris the ultimate changeup. The question now is whether the Detroit right-hander can adjust.
Morris is 33 years old, but his arm feels much older, and not without some reason. Since breaking into the major leagues in 1977, that arm has thrown 2,500 innings.After being pounded for six runs on seven hits, including three home runs, on Sunday, Morris said his arm just doesn't snap back as easily as it once did.
"I just wish I could take the same stuff out there, every start, day in and day out," Morris said. "In '86, every start of the second half, I felt great. That happened in '81, too, prior to the strike. This year it's different.
"I'm starting to feel the years."
Morris, the winningest pitcher in the major leagues in the 1980s, is 7-9 with an ERA of 5.24.
A check with other veterans in the Detroit clubhouse indicates Morris isn't alone in his feelings about age.
"If you check my numbers in 1982 and 1983, you'll see I wasn't too spectacular, either," said 37-year-old right-hander Doyle Alexander. "I was with the Yankees and it was tough."
The Yankees released Alexander in 1983 with an 0-2 record and a 6.35 ERA. He was signed about a month later by Toronto and went on to win 39 games in just over two seasons before being traded to Atlanta.
"Age effects everybody differently," Alexander said. "But it does effect everybody. Nobody gets overlooked."
Darrell Evans, 41, also has had to battle to turn back the clock. Last season he became the only player over 40 to hit 30 home runs.
"I can't speak for Jack, because everybody is different," the first baseman said. "But I know this, we won't turn our backs on him. Jack carried this club for a lot of years."
On Monday, Morris resumed the isometric exercises he abandoned after spring training. He's convinced that more work, rather than less, will get him over this trouble spot.
Pitching coach Billy Muffett agrees.
"It's nothing mechanical," Muffett said. "I wish it was. But I watch Jack pitch and there's nothing wrong. His form is perfect.
"So I just stress the positives to him. His form is so good, I wouldn't be surprised if, in the second half of the season, Jack reels off 13 straight wins."
Morris is determined to do whatever it takes to turn his season around as he says he wants to earn his million-dollar salary.
"I've seen so much in this game," Morris said. "I know about the struggles for respect, for self-confidence. I know the failures and succeses. And I know when it's all said and done, you've got to accept it all, everything that happens.
"Someday when a little boy says to me, `Grandpa, tell me about baseball,' I can tell him about no-hitters and World Series. And I can also tell him when it was tough. When it was really tough."