Posted at 1:23 PM on June 21, 2009
by David Zingler
Eight years ago this month, the Twins selected catcher Joe Mauer with the 1st overall pick in the amateur draft. 76 picks later in the 3rd round, the team selected another promising athlete and would-be catcher, Jose Morales.
While Mauer's fate is well known, Morales is still looking to carve out his niche in the big leagues. In his case however, it has nothing to with production. After a pinch-hit double on Saturday night, Morales is hitting .370 (20 for 54) in three major league stints this season. The 26-year-old sat down with me before today's game to discuss his brief career and future.
DZ: You've had - literally - an up and down season - been up and down a couple of times, could you talk a little about that experience?
MORALES: I have been just trying to stay focused, stay positive. I have been having a real good opportunity here - I have been going up and down like you said - it is just part of the business.
DZ: You made the team out of spring training, but you also knew that Joe Mauer was sitting over there on the DL. Is that a situation where you just take it day-by-day and not worry about (Mauer's return)?
MORALES: Even if he wasn't on the DL, even if he was playing, I wouldn't be worried about that. Like I've always said, we are talking about the best - probably one of the best - players in baseball. As a player, you don't worry about that, you just take what they give you and take advantage of the situation. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to start (the season) with the team, but no, I wasn't worried (about being sent down).
DZ: Let's go back a couple of years when you made your (major league) debut in September '07. You went 3 for 3 before hurting your (left) ankle sliding into 2nd base (and missed the rest of the season). How did you deal with the high and low of that all in one day?
MORALES: It was a big mix of feelings. It was great, I had my dad there - he saw me play, but at the same time...I got hurt. I finally made it to the big leagues and then I had to wait two more years (before I came back). It is something you can't control, things happen for a reason and I am just glad that is in the past.
DZ: Last year you got off to a pretty good start (in Triple A) and were hitting over .300 (.315) when you hurt the same ankle again (in July and missed the remainder of the season). Was it a case of it not being healed or was it just freak accident?
MORALES: I want to say it probably just didn't heal right, but like I said, I am just glad it's over with. I have just moved on.
DZ: You're a catcher and you've been hitting pretty well when you've had a chance, but - like we talked about - Joe Mauer is in this organization. Obviously, every player wants to play everyday at some point, is this just a case where you are trying to showcase yourself right now? Do you think about that at all?
MORALES: Definitely. You want to go out and play everyday or as much as you can, but I don't do the line-up and...the Twins are fortunate to have the best catcher in baseball. We just can't argue about that, I am just going to....I know my time will come sooner or later. I just have to stay positive.
DZ: Is there anything you can learn from watching (Mauer)?
MORALES: (laughs) Definitely. We are the same age, but he's been in the big leagues for almost 5 years, so he definitely has more experience than me - just handling the pitchers, the way he goes about his business - everything. He is just a great guy, a great player and I enjoy watching him play. Just by watching him, you just learn.
DZ: You guys were drafted the same year too, did you play in the minor leagues as teammates at all?
MORALES: For a little bit. Actually, I signed as a shortstop and they converted me as a catcher in '03 or '04, I believe. I was in extended spring (training) learning how to catch and Joe was in the Florida State League which is in the same place in Florida (Ft. Myers) and he got hurt, so I got called up (to replace him). When he came back, I stayed there for awhile. So yeah, we played together for a little bit.
DZ: You mentioned you were drafted as an infielder....is there any chance you'd be out in the field now or are you just strictly a catcher now?
MORALES: I don't make those decisions, but I would love to. Back in Puerto Rico in winter ball, I played first base, outfield - pretty much everywhere. Like I said, anything they want me to do, I will be willing to do it.
DZ: One last thing: this is kind of a goofy little coincidence, but I noticed you are not the first Jose Morales to play for the Twins (the other did from 1978-80). Did you know about that?
MORALES: Yes, yes. He is Puerto Rican too, (but) we are not related.
DZ: He was a pretty good hitter too...
MORALES: Yes, he was a pretty good hitter. I guess he ended up as a pinch hitter in the National League.
DZ: I guess he hit something like .287 in his career, that's not too shabby.
MORALES: No (laughs).
(Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
See more of David Zingler's interviews with Twins players:
June 8: Sean Henn
June 3: Mike Redmond
May 27: Nick Blackburn
May 26: Michael Cuddyer
May 15: Matt Guerrier
May 13: Kevin Slowey
April 30: Brendan Harris
April 28: Jason Kubel
April 18: Justin Morneau
April 15: R.A. Dickey
April 14: Denard Span
April 8: Philip Humber
April 7: Joe Crede