Adam Morgan making a quick climb in just third year in Phillies system

ALLENTOWN – Adam Morgan is one phone call away from achieving his dream. He’s well aware of it, too.

He’sa just a few Darin Ruf home runs away from Philadelphia pitching in Allentown for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He can all but reach out and touch Major League Baseball. But he doesn’t feel like he’s that close.

He’s only in his second full season of professional baseball, after all. Achieving his dream so soon after being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies just doesn’t seem reasonable. Whether he wants to believe it or not, he’s there. He’s on the short list of potential call-ups from the farm system should the Phillies need a starting pitcher.

“I don’t know why it doesn’t feel as close. I’m taking it day by day,” Morgan said this week during Media Day for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. “That’d be great to get called up. But until then, I’m going to work every day to get better.”

Morgan has forced his way into the Phillies’ plans for future pitching. Obviously that was the goal was he was drafted in the third round out of the University of Alabama in 2011. But his first full season of minor league baseball made him a consensus Top 5 prospect in the Phillies’ organization.

While scouts and fans alike raved about Morgan’s first season of pro ball – which saw him play at high Class A Clearwater and Class AA Reading – it was a puzzling season for the Marietta, Ga., native. He felt all season like he was throwing well, but it never seemed to show in his record.

He was called up to Reading despite 4-10 record in 20 starts for Clearwater. But don’t let his record fool you, Morgan was filthy in Clearwater.

He gave up 20 fewer hits than innings pitched. He had a five to one strikeout to walk ratio.

“(Pitching coach) Dave Lundquist sat me down and said don’t worry about the numbers. Stay the course and good things will happen,” Morgan said. “I asked Lundy how come I can’t win? He said you can’t worry about that. He said once you start worrying that you play mind games with yourself and only bad things can happen then.”

Morgan has found a way to put those concerns behind him. He’s focused on the fact that he continues to move up through the Phillies’ system at a break-neck pace.

After his rookie season in Williamsport in 2011 in which he went 3-3 with a 2.01 ERA, Morgan skipped Lakewood altogether before playing at two levels a year ago. He so impressed the Phillies’ brass during spring training that he is beginning this year in Class AAA Lehigh Valley.

He also impressed the Phillies’ front office so much during spring training that they gave him a start against the Atlanta Braves late in the spring. Not wanting to start Roy Halladay against a division opponent, Morgan responded with a stellar outing.

In 4 2/3 innings, he struck out five and allowed just one run against a Braves lineup which featured B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman.

“I said if my stuff’s ready, it’s ready. If not, I’ll work on it,” Morgan said. “I’m just going out there and doing what I’ve done and try to be humble about it. You learn valuable things on a day like that. Getting ahead of guys in huge. That was one of the main things I took away from spring training.”

In the couple weeks he spent in big league spring training, Morgan said he tried to be a fly on the wall, absorbing any and all information he could get his hands on. Mostly he just watched how veteran major league pitchers like Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels went about their business.

Morgan has been compared to Lee a lot since being drafted. His delivery is a near spot-on match to Lee’s. He throws a fastball that will sit in the 90-93 mph range with a sharp-biting slider that is his out pitch, and an improving change-up.

Morgan took time this spring to sit and talk with Hamels about his change-up. Hamels’ change-up is one of the best in baseball, so Morgan picked his brain about Hamels’ grip and how he, as a left-hander, can make the pitch a viable option against left-handed hitters.

“There’s different personalities on that pitching staff, but when it comes to game time and getting their prep work, they’re all the same person,” Morgan said. “They’re getting after it. There’s no joking around. I feel like that was something I really paid attention to.”

It showed in his first start for the IronPigs on Saturday night as he allowed six hits and two runs in six quality innings. It’s the type of outing Morgan knows he’s capable of, and it’s the type of outing that if he continues to repeat is going to make him a front-runner for that spot in Philadelphia should the Phillies need another arm.

“I try not to think like that,” Morgan said. “I just try to go out and do the best job I can and force (the Phillies’) hand. I’m not going to think that it’s my second year and I’ve got time. I want to get there as soon as I can.”

And whether he can believe it or not, he’s just a phone call away.