I'm rooting for Franklin Morales.
He's a home grown Rockie who was enlisted into early service in 2007, performing brilliantly down that memorable stretch. His subsequent offerings were erratic, and so was his treatment. He was shuffled from the rotation to the bullpen, from the minors to the majors, endless wandering worthy of Ulysses. So when his travels brought him back from Boston, and he declared himself a starting pitcher, he became a sentimental favorite.
I also root for Morales because he's interesting. He's a superficial stoic, never complaining openly about his hither-to-yon movements in Colorado, just showing a quiet intensity on the mound. But his stoicism is manifestly a put-on. Close ups of his eyes on television show the thought he's giving to every pitch, along with the consequences of those pitches. And the trademark rubbing of his brow -- kicking back his ballcap and kneading his forehead -- betrays the concern that sometimes overwhelms him. Franklin reminds us, as Stanley Covelski did, that baseball is a worrying thing.
All that said, after watching Morales in person last night for the first time in years (not counting his appearance in Helton's last home game), I wonder if he's better suited for the bullpen. He still short-arms the ball, a quirk that isn't likely to change at this point, but one that concerns me about his durability as a starter. His fastball is still a treat to watch: full of life and running from bats, evidenced by his four strikeouts last night. That's a real asset for middle to late innings.
But his secondary stuff looked like it did in his winter ball starts. It remains uncertain in its location, so untrustworthy early in the count. And at times he's very hittable. The home run he surrendered was a no-doubter, the triple very nearly cleared the wall, and Charlie Blackmon stole away a double with startling speed, relegating it instead to a sacrifice fly. These were thunder claps off the Mariners' bats, which again makes me wonder if Weiss will be able to better control Morales predictable unpredictability if he enters the game from the bullpen.
Franklin's chief competitor, Jordan Lyles, is no sure thing. I've only seen one of his spring outings, last week against the Brewers, and he was working on attacking inside. The results were promising, but he surrendered his share of big hits and loud outs, as well. As he shows his complete repertoire, working outside as well as in, it'll be interesting to see how it compares to Morales.
But I'll still be rooting for Franklin.