The Indians have been lacking a strong lefty starting pitcher in the last few seasons. Scott Kazmir was a good backend starter in 2013, and T.J. House was excellent for half a season, and abysmal in 2015. Justus Sheffield has quite some time before he’ll be in Cleveland, along with recently drafted Brady Aiken. Luckily, the Indians may have a gem of a lefty developing in Double-A Akron this year in the likes of Shawn Morimando.
Morimando, 22, was drafted in the nineteenth round by the Indians in the June Amateur Draft in 2011. Since that time, he’s spent parts of five seasons in the Indians minor league system, and is currently in Double-A Akron where he is putting together a season to remember. In 2014, before being promoted to Akron, Morimando had been cruising in High-A Carolina where he had an ERA of 2.99, a WHIP of 1.11, and a record of 8-3 in 18 starts with 70 strikeouts to 35 walks. He then continued to roll in Akron where in 10 games for the RubberDucks he had an ERA of 3.83, a WHIP of 1.42, and a record of 2-6 with 38 strikeouts to 17 walks.
So far in 2015, he’s posting a record of 4-6 with an ERA of 2.94, a WHIP of 1.27, along with 55 strikeouts to 35 walks. Morimando has started to grow more comfortable in this league after his mid-season promotion in 2014.
“Last year when I came up, I hadn’t faced these teams. Some teams I saw in High-A and the players. As I kept throwing and pitching, I built up some experience. Coming into this year, I’d been here and it’s not new,” Morimando said. “I’ve just gotta continue working on some areas, like fastball command for sure. Make sure I have my offspeed pitches and attack hitters more. Already knowing that, and knowing the zones a bit tighter it gave me some confidence coming into the season and just continue to work on what I’ve been doing.”
In his 13 games with the RubberDucks this year, Morimando has seen an increase in his K/9. It has risen to 7.071 compared to 6.107 in 2014. What also has seen a tick up is his BB/9 which has jumped up to 4.5 from 2.732 in 2014. While Morimando is averaging about 5.3 innings per start this season, he’s also putting a lot of guys on base via the walk. Even though he’s putting men on base, he hasn’t allowed those runners to score due to the fact that he’s found a way to buckle down and get out of the inning. Morimando credits all the walks to the fact that he pitches aggressively to whoever is in the box.
“My walks are spotlighted, but my mindset is that I’m trying to be aggressive in the zone and make my pitches. If it happens, I can’t worry about it. I’m just trying to log my innings and give them the best chance to win when I’m out there,” Morimando said.
Being able to trust your defense is key when you’re a pitcher, especially someone who tends to put a lot of men on base. There’s no doubt in Morimando’s mind that his defense will be there to back him up when a ball is put in play.
“I’m super confident in our defense. I’ve been playing with these guys for quite a few years. We all have each other’s back, through the good or bad. I trust them every time I’m out there,” Morimando said. “I tell them I’m out there for you guys, and I’m trying to do my job so you guys are confident in me every time I’m out there. You want that relationship between the pitcher and defense. I want them to like playing behind me.”
Not only is a relationship with the defense behind the pitcher important, but also the relationship with the catcher as well. Morimando has gone up through the system with Tony Wolters, Jeremy Lucas, and Jake Lowery. A solid relationship bodes well for the pitcher because it creates a bond that will put both pitcher and catcher on the same wavelength. Staying in sync can create a dominate pitching tandem with very potent results. Morimando feels that he can trust each of the pitchers behind the dish.
“We’ve all been together for a quite a few years. Wolters, Lucas, Lowery and even Alex Lavisky before he got moved up to Columbus. I’d been around these guys for a handful of years. I’ve thrown to all of them, and it’s a pleasure every time I get a chance to play. They know me, I know them. It’s a good relationship, on and off the field as well,” Morimando said.
Most rotations in the MLB try to mix up the rotation by throwing a lefty in there at some point. The league is dominated by right handed pitchers, so when a lefty is thrown in, it creates an unbalance that batters are not exactly used to. Morimando creates this type of unbalance. While not only is a left handed pitcher, his delivery is also strange as well. It’s almost as if he pitches from the stretch by the way he contorts his body towards first base. This type of delivery creates deception that most batters are not used to seeing. When he’s able to locate his pitches, he tends to be one of the most dominant pitchers that you could see on the mound.
For Morimando to be successful, he’ll need to continue to work on keeping his walks to a minimum. While he’s able to get out of the inning most of the time, that may not always be the case. Putting runners on base only creates havoc for not only the pitcher, but the defense as well. If Morimando could find a way to command his fastball and offspeed at a consistent basis, he could be a vital member of a future Indians rotation. Spending time in Akron has taught him this, especially after spending time with his current, and former pitching teammates like Will Roberts, Ryan Merritt, Adam Plutko, Michael Clevinger, and newly promoted to The Show Cody Anderson.
“I’ve been playing with Cody, Will, Adam, Merritt, and Clev and we’ve been together the past couple years,” Morimando said. “We all kind of feed off each other. We’re all always watching each other and having conversations with each other in the dugout and in the stands when we’re up there. Just having conversations and obviously learning and picking each other’s brains. It’s been really nice having those relationships as well…. We’re all doing the same process. It might not be the same process for each guy, but we’re all kind of working on the same stuff in the same area. It’s nice having multiple resources to ask questions and learn by watching their pens and just try and pick up a few things that might help me as well. “
Morimando may not be the most well-known name in the league, but if he continues this current pace that he’s on, he could be benefiting the Indians team in a huge way in the coming future. He’s quietly becoming one of the most promising pitchers in the Indians system, and you can never have enough pitching.
Photo: Dave Monseur/MiLB.com