FRISCO, Texas – Seen as the big arm acquired by A.J. Preller in the big international signing pool of 2016, Adrian Morejón has had the hopes and expectations of an organization searching for success for quite a while by now. Signed out of Cuba at the age of 18 for $11 million (as well as an $11 million penalty for going over the cap), the southpaw with a fastball that can reach high-90s has been called up to the major leagues as of July 20, according to multiple sources.
Despite being 20 years of age and throwing just 36 innings for the Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles this season, the Padres feel that now is the time for Morejón to make the jump from opening games for the Soddies to working the late innings for the Padres.
Having worked as a starter during his first few years in the Padres organization, Morejón’s workload was reduced this year, and he has not thrown more than 42 pitches in any of his outings since April 16th.
On July 13th, MadFriars was on the ground in the Texas League and watched on as Morejón mowed down all six batters he faced in his two-inning stint to start the game, including rehabbing All-Star Hunter Pence. The next day, we had a chat with Morejón about his success this year, the Futures Game, and, yeah, Hunter Pence.
MadFriars: Is “Morejon” written with an accent or not? I’ve only seen it written without the accent, but it looks like you use one in your signature.
Morejón: Yes, with an accent.
Alright. I’ve only seen it written without an accent, but I noticed that your signature looks like you use one. Anyways, how did it feel to strike out Hunter Pence last night?
[Editor’s Note: Pence was in the Frisco RoughRiders lineup on a rehab assignment from the Texas Rangers].
Morejón: I felt super good. hat’s a player that the whole world knows, he’s won World Series and things like that, so that felt super good.
What worked for you last night? You needed just 20 pitches to make it through two innings and retired all six batters you faced.
Morejón: The past week, I’ve been working a lot on my control, and yesterday I was just trying to make sure I was throwing strikes. I wasn’t trying to throw hard (although he was hitting mid-90’s with his fastball) or only get strikeouts, just get outs.
How does your arm feel? At the beginning of the year, you were throwing 4-5 innings per start, but lately, they’ve been having you start the game, go two innings, and then bring in another pitcher.
Morejón: I had an injury that took me out for about three weeks, and I returned with a two-inning program, which I’ve been following for the past month or so. But no, no problems with my arm, I’m feeling super good.
Have they told you the plan for the rest of the year? Will you keep it to just a few innings each night, or do you think they might stretch you out to more innings at some point?
Morejón: As of right now, what I know is that I’m going to continue throwing just two innings, and they’ll tell me when something changes.
You’ve been striking out more hitters this year (11 K/9 this season with Amarillo, compared to 10.1 K/9 in Lake Elsinore and an 8.9 K/9 mark when he split time between Tri-City and Fort Wayne). What has been the difference this year, and how have you been able to improve, even as the quality of hitters becomes more challenging?
Morejón: I think that, in past years, when I had two strikes, I didn’t have that pitch that I knew I could throw to get that last strike. During Spring Training, I was working a lot on my control and my breaking ball – both to be able to throw it for a strike and to be able to get it into the dirt when I want to.
What can you tell us about your experience in the Futures Game? You threw just nine pitches in an inning of work and didn’t allow any runs, but it seemed like a lot happened there.
Morejón: It was an experience that, since I’ve been with the Padres organization, has been my best experience. Pitching in the Futures Game, I felt a little pressure at first – I’d never thrown in a stadium like that, in front of so many people. It felt great to pitch in a major league stadium.
What are the goals you have for the remainder of the year, and in what ways are you hoping to improve moving forward?
Morejón: I want to keep working on my mechanics, staying consistent with all my pitches, and more than anything, keep working hard and stay healthy, not have any more issues with my arm.
Morejón leaves Amarillo after posting a 4.25 ERA in 16 outings (36 innings) with a 44:15 K: BB ratio. However, in his last 11 “starts” (all of two innings or less, with one three-inning exception), he has a 2.21 ERA and a 23:4 K: BB ratio, while limiting batters to a .200 batting average.
He will join the Padres as they continue their series against the Chicago Cubs, along with the also recently-promoted Luis Urías. No corresponding moves have been made available at the time of this article, and Morejón will need to be added to the 40-man roster.
You can also read an earlier interview here that John did with Morejón in earlier this month and read where Sam Geaney, the Padres Senior Director of Player Development said at the end of last year that Adrian could arrive in the big leagues quicker than most people expect.