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Morris plates four in Triple-A debut
Brewers top hitting prospect homers, doubles in Sounds win
04/04/2013 11:43 PM ET
Hunter Morris led the Southern League in six categories last year.
Hunter Morris led the Southern League in six categories last year. (Mike Strasinger/Nashville Sounds)

Brewers prospects Hunter Morris and Tyler Thornburg spent two months together last year with Double-A Huntsville.

Morris went on to lead the Southern League with 28 homers and 113 RBIs, while Thornburg went 8-1 in 13 starts before advancing to Triple-A and, ultimately, the Majors.

Together again to start 2013, the duo is looking to wreak havoc on the Pacific Coast League.

Morris homered, doubled and drove in four runs and Thornburg recorded seven strikeouts over five innings Thursday as the Nashville Sounds opened the PCL season by edging the New Orleans Zephyrs, 5-4.

"To start the year out and be able to collect some big hits and drive in a couple runs and help the team get the win, it was good," Morris said. "I knew that if I didn't get it done, someone else would.

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"Tyler did a great job going out there and setting the tone. That first inning, it's so important. It gives everybody confidence in the dugout, it's such a big part of the game. To strike out four guys in the first inning, it sets the tone for the rest of the game."

A 2010 fourth-round selection out of Auburn University, Morris ripped Tom Koehler's 2-0 cutter to right field to score Josh Prince and Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the first inning. Milwaukee's top hitting prospect -- ranked fifth overall in the system -- then turned on the first offering he saw from Dan Jennings in the sixth to drive a two-run homer out to right field.

"I was just trying to lock in and not be too overly aggressive," said Morris, the reigning Southern League MVP. "It was an approach that just came together. I realized that it was a first-pitch fastball early enough to put a good swing on it, and it worked out for the best."

Morris' offense proved enough to help Thornburg -- ranked second among Brewers prospects -- get the win. The 2010 third-round pick out of Charleston Southern allowed a run on three hits and a walk.

"It went pretty well for the first start," said Thornburg, a midseason All-Star with Huntsville last summer. "I had my fastball control and my off-speed pitches were working well. I was getting ahead and putting guys away. I think everything was working.

"I got three or four strikeouts with my fastball, a couple with my curve and one with the changeup. Throwing all of my pitches for strikes is one thing I pride myself on."

The lone blemish for the 24-year-old right-hander came in the third. Matt Downs hit a leadoff double, Koehler sacrificed him to third and leadoff man Kevin Mattison drove him home with a softly hit single.

"It was a tough at-bat with Mattison," Thornburg said. "He got a curveball a little bit up and a little bit off the plate and he flicked it over the shortstop's head. I had two strikes and I couldn't put him away. You can't be perfect every time."

New Orleans rallied against the Sounds bullpen for a run in the eighth and another in the ninth, but the comeback fell short when closer Robert Wooten got shortstop Ed Lucas to fly out to end the game with the potential tying run on third base.

"There are definitely going to be some adjustments to make," Morris said of moving up a level, "but I just have to stay consistent and refine my approach at the plate. The game will dictate what adjustments I need to make."

Morris recorded four RBIs three times in 2012 with Huntsville and once with Class A Advanced Brevard County in 2011. His career high is five RBIs, achieved for Class A Wisconsin in a 10-7 triumph over Cedar Rapids on Aug. 15, 2010.

Thornburg, who went 10-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 21 starts between Huntsville and Nashville last year, said it felt good to start the season on the right foot.

"Usually two or three starts into the season, that's when you're still feeling fresh, that's when you normally start to get all of your pitches working" he said. "Anytime you're locating this well this early in the season, that's not a bad thing. Hopefully, I can keep going and keep throwing the ball down."

In eight Major League appearances, including three starts, last year, Thornburg posted a 4.50 ERA and struck out 20 batters over 22 innings.

Koehler allowing two runs -- one earned -- on a hit and two walks while striking out seven over five innings. He did not factor in the decision. Downs finished 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored, while Lucas doubled twice and scored a pair of runs for the Zephyrs.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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