Jack Morris recalls his pitch-tipping episode
Minneapolis — Jack Morris, the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, can empathize with what Justin Verlander went through recently with the Indians.
Tipping pitches, which is what Verlander and the Tigers believe was at the crux of the Indians’ nine-run assault last weekend, is something Morris dealt with, too.
“Yeah, for like three months,” he said. “And I found out after the fact that I was tipping my pitches. Just a stupid, simple thing that I wasn’t aware of.
Which is ironic because nobody on our side, including our pitching coach, saw me doing it.”
It was in 1983 and teams caught on to Morris tipping his forkball.
“Every time I’d throw my forkball, I’d flare my glove,” Morris said. “And whenever they saw my glove flutter like that, they knew it was a forkball. It was still a tough pitch to hit, but it was an off-speed, so if they saw it, they didn’t have to sit dead red. They could guess.
“It cost me a couple of games.”
It cost him a bad first half. He was 9-8 with a 4.18 ERA when he found out he was tipping.
“I threw a really good game against the White Sox,” Morris said. “And Tom Paciorek came up to me the next day and said, ‘We had all of your pitches.’
And I said, ‘Well, a lot of good that did you.’
“But thankfully he told me. I said, ‘Thank you; I had no idea.’”
Morris went 12-5 with a 2.55 ERA the rest of the way and finished third in the Cy Young voting.
“From that point on, I just flared my glove on every pitch,” Morris said.
Morris, who continues to work for the Twins broadcast team, said he understood Verlander’s angst, but he said it can become a self-perpetuating issue.
“Whenever you have a bad couple of times with a lineup you start to wonder,” he said. “But here’s the other thing: Teams can get in your head. If they are primarily hitting fastballs, say, well maybe you shouldn’t throw fastballs. Just throw change-ups and curve balls.
“And if you do throw a fastball, don’t throw it for a strike. Throw it off the plate, in or away and just get in their head.”
Playing division teams 19 times a season doesn’t help, Morris said.
“When I look back, whenever I had to face the same team back-to-back, if it was a team I had success against, I’d be like, ‘Great, I can get two wins instead of one,’” he said. “But if it was the Brewers or the Yankees or somebody I had a tougher time against, it’s, ‘Which one am I going to do well in because in the other I am probably not.’”
Bottom-line though, Morris thinks Verlander has enough weapons to properly combat the problem.
“Justin’s got four pitches he can get anybody out with,” he said. “It’s easy for him. But there are going to be teams that get you for a while. That’s what is challenging and beautiful and difficult about major league baseball.
“You’ve got to adjust all the time.”