Cal notes: Angels' Morgan makes fresh start

Outfielder settling in with 66ers after being released by Mariners

Signed by the Angels in April, Gareth Morgan was drafted by the Mariners with the 76th overall pick in 2014. (Lewis Duran/MiLB.com)

By Merisa Jensen / Special to MiLB.com | July 29, 2019 11:30 AM

Gareth Morgan's Minor League career hasn't always been easy.

It got a little tougher at the beginning of this season when the Mariners, who drafted the outfielder with the 74th overall pick in 2014, released him April 19. It was worrisome to wonder what his next step would be.

"That's probably the biggest thing, not knowing what's next or what other opportunities are going to come up," Morgan said.

At the time he was released, Morgan was hitting just .074 for the Modesto Nuts. He was 2-for-27 with a home run, three RBIs, five walks and 20 strikeouts in eight games.

"I feel like mentally I wasn't really there," Morgan said. "Trying to do too much and thinking, 'Oh, I've got to do all this.'"

About a week after being released, with the help of his agent, Morgan got an offer from the Angels and signed with them on April 29.

"I think it was about a week, maybe, and the Angels called, thankfully, which I was happy to hear," Morgan said. "It's been great so far. It's just great to get a fresh start."

He was sent to extended spring training in Arizona, where he worked on improving himself mentally and physically, tweaking his swing a little here and there.

"I feel like since I've gotten here, I've been trying to be as relaxed as possible and just trust myself and look for a good pitch to hit and do some damage with it," Morgan said. "There were some swing changes that I did in Arizona. Just some different slots, bat path and timing. I'd say it's like 50-50 [mental and physical]."

After spending about six weeks in Arizona, Morgan joined the Inland Empire 66ers on June 4 and got to work.

He is hitting .285 with the team and has 19 home runs -- 11 in July. He's had three two-homer games and has driven in 44 runs in 43 games. But he's still struggling with strikeouts; he has 93 compared to just eight walks.

Video: 66ers' Morgan clubs three-run homer

"It feels good," Morgan said. "I'm still trying to figure out a way to limit the strikeouts, which is the big thing with me. Other than that, I like where I'm at, just got to limit the Ks and just stick to my approach."

The 66ers, and Morgan, have benefited from having several Major Leaguers play with them on rehab assignments. They've had outfielder Justin Upton, several pitchers and over the weekend played with catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Morgan said Upton was a player similar to him and one he learned from.

"Not through conversation, just kind of watching how certain people go about their business and how they kind of know exactly what they have to do pregame, during the game and all that stuff," Morgan said. "Just kind of picking up on that."

2019 MiLB include

Morgan, a Toronto native, played hockey as a child and had to make a choice between hockey and baseball when he was in the eighth grade.

"Those early 5 a.m. back skates aren't too fun," Morgan said. "Baseball's a more laid-back sport and I enjoyed it more, so I made that decision. I still love [hockey] though. I still play it sometimes in the offseason."

Even though baseball can be a frustrating sport, he still loves it, too. When it gets difficult, he just tries to remember when he was younger and why he chose to play it.

"I just try and think back to when you're a little kid playing baseball, just because you love playing baseball and being around your friends," Morgan said. "Just trying to get back to that. I feel like baseball keeps people young."

Morgan plans on improving his offense steadily and focusing on limiting his strikeouts for the rest of this season with his new team.

"I feel like if I can limit the strikeouts, a lot more defense is going to happen, give myself more opportunities," he said.

In brief

Beloved coach: Inland Empire first base coach Steve Hernandez has been coaching baseball in the San Bernardino area for more than 35 years. He coached high school baseball for 26 years at Fontana and Redlands East Valley high schools and began working with the Angels as a volunteer scout in 1998. He has coached with the 66ers since 2011. He is so beloved in the area that the 66ers sell a shirt with his face on it. "I just picked mine up the other day," said Morgan. "He's just a great spirit. Everyone loves him. He's the best first base coach ever."

Sizzling Snyder: JetHawks infielder Taylor Snyder is hitting .311 with nine home runs, 31 RBIs and a .990 OPS in 31 games since the All-Star break. He homered in four straight games from July 20-23 and picked up 10 RBIs in that span. Snyder hit .230 with four homers and 16 RBIs in the first half of the season.

New skipper: Hector Borg was named the San Jose Giants' manager on July 17, four days after manager Bill Hayes abruptly resigned. Borg, 34, was the fundamentals coach for the Giants' Dominican Summer League team this season prior his appointment in San Jose. The Giants are 9-3 since Borg took over.

Merisa Jensen is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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