One word comes to mind when I think of Nyjer Morgan — spastic. The 33-year-old outfielder signed with the Cleveland Indians recently after it was announced that center fielder Michael Bourn would begin the season on the disabled list. Morgan spent the 2013 season playing in Japan after he was unable to find work in the MLB. Now, he is looking to change his image.
During his six MLB seasons, Morgan has been known more for his explosive personality than his play on the field. But it was obviously his alter ego Tony Plush that was flipping off fans and getting into fights, because Morgan claims he is leaving all that in the past.
“I just wanted to leave the malarkey behind me, and show the new me, the new veteran — the guy I am,” Morgan told Ted Berg of USA Today Sports on Monday. “I wanted to show them who Nyjer Morgan is, not Tony Plush. Tony Plush is just a fun-loving part of the game. But I wanted to show who Nyjer Morgan is: a hard-working individual that loves coming to the ballpark and loves competing, and loves being with his boys.
When he’s at his best, Morgan is a useful asset. He hit .304 in 119 games for the Brewers in 2011 and injected energy into the lineup. He also once threw a legendary fit in the outfield during a game and got into it with a fan over a foul ball, so it’s only fitting that Morgan has come up with an alter ego for himself.
“I worked hard this offseason, mentally and physically,” he said. “I feel really prepared. I feel that I’ve earned this spot, earned this situation. Hard work is what got me here, and hard work is definitely not going to stop.”
Terry Francona will be happy if Morgan can contribute until Bourn gets back. The concern now is his declining skill set more than his whacky personality. Francona has been known to handle some of the most difficult players in the game, so that shouldn’t be an issue. If Morgan hits just .239 like he did in 2012, that will be the real concern for Cleveland.