Preston Morrison is in some kind of zone.
The former TCU right-hander hasn’t allowed an earned run in his past four starts for the Class A South Bend (Ind.) Cubs.
He extended the stretch to 28 1/3 innings Wednesday with seven innings of three-hit ball. He walked one and tied a season high with nine strikeouts to improve to 9-3.
It was his first start since being named the Chicago Cubs’ minor league pitcher of the month for June on Monday. He lowered his ERA to 2.44 over 81 innings.
“I think the most important thing for me is just being myself, dictating the pace, the tempo, not letting hitters settle in, and going after guys with good, quality pitches, not trying to be too perfect,” said Morrison, who was an eighth-round draft selection in 2015. “I’d rather throw 80 good pitches than 20 perfect pitches. Every time I toe the rubber, I’m just trying to throw as many quality pitches as I can.”
Morrison’s ability to keep hitters guessing and forcing groundball outs was his bread and butter during his standout, four-year career with the Horned Frogs. He’s TCU’s all-time leader in starts (61) and innings (471 1/3) as well as second in wins (37) and strikeouts (322).
After a slow start in April, Morrison has been on fire. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs since pitching three scoreless one-hit innings of relief on May 2. In 10 starts since, Morrison has allowed just 10 runs over the past 63 1/3 innings.
“I think it was something I had to figure out and settle into, but the most important thing, the difference between then and now, No. 1 is confidence,” Morrison told MILB.com. “Knowing I’ve got the stuff to do what I need to do to get outs and then just making sure that I’m staying on top of the game, making sure it’s my game, making sure that I really focus on my secondary pitches and establish the fastball.”
In his past 39 2/3 innings, Morrison has walked six and struck out 35.
“I like to think that when you’re feeling good, you don’t need to do anything more or anything less,” he said. “You’ve just got to be who you are. Right now, I like to think that each start is independent, and I’m just trying to go out there and do the best that I can, not really comparing it to the last one, just making it the best one I can that night.”
▪ Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter (TCU), who earned his third All-Star honor on Tuesday was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a right oblique strain.
▪ Right-hander Drew Smith (Crowley) has 20 strikeouts and two walks in 12 1/3 innings for Class A West Michigan (Tigers).
▪ Third baseman Jantzen Witte (Arlington Martin, TCU) has hit safely in 16 of his past 21 games, including the past four for the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox. He has eight doubles in the stretch.
▪ Left-hander Kyle Bartsch (L.D. Bell), who was released by the Padres’ Double A affiliate San Antonio Missions on May 18 and signed by the Royals’ Double A team Northwest Arkansas on May 20, has a 1.14 ERA in 23 2/3 innings since the move. His ERA was 8.31 in 17 1/3 with the Missions.