RailCats sign RHP Morris to first American Association contract

RailCats sign RHP Morris to first American Association contract

The Gary SouthShore RailCats signed right-handed pitcher Colby Morris to his first American Association contract before Sunday’s series finale against the Cleburne Railroaders. In order to make room for Morris on the 23-man active roster, Gary placed right-handed pitcher Sandy Lugo on the Inactive List retroactive to July 3rd and placed outfielder Zach Welz on irrevocable waivers due to a knee injury sustained in Saturday’s game. Lugo was returned back to Gary on Saturday after originally getting traded to Cleburne on July 8th.

Morris appeared in Sunday’s game out of the bullpen and was charged with the loss in his league debut. The right-hander went 2.2 innings out of the bullpen, allowing a run on four hits while striking out one.

Morris signed his first professional baseball contract with the Trois-Rivieres Aigles of the Can-Am League on June 14th following his senior season at Middlebury College. In three games (two starts) with Trois-Rivieres, Morris went 2-0 with a 5.40 ERA. In 11.2 innings, the right-hander allowed seven runs on 14 hits and four walks while striking out six.

Morris recorded the win in his professional baseball debut on June 19th against the Sussex County Miners. Morris went five innings in the start, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk while striking out three. Morris recorded his second pro win in his final appearance with Trois-Rivieres vs. the Ottawa Champions. Morris went five innings again, allowing five runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out two.

Over his four-year career at Middlebury College, Morris ranks first all-time in career wins (18), games started (39), innings pitched (256) and appearances (49). Morris also set the school record for most starts in a single-season with 12 back as a sophomore back in 2017.

As a senior at Middlebury, Morris garnered Second Team All-New England Small College Athlete Conference (NESCAC) honors after going 5-3 with three complete games, a save and a 3.25 ERA in 14 games (10 starts). A native of Del Mar, Calif., also led the Panthers pitching staff in games (14), starts (10), wins (five), complete games (three), innings (72) and strikeouts (56).

As a junior in 2018, Morris was named First Team All-NESCAC, the NESCAC Pitcher of the Year and a d3baseball.com All-New England Region Third Team selection after going 5-4 with a with four complete games, a save and a 1.68 ERA in 12 games (nine starts). Morris also led the Panthers pitching staff in games (12), starts (nine), wins (five), complete games (four), innings (64.1) and strikeouts (53).

In the summer of 2018 Morris played both the Green Bay Bullfrogs of the Northwoods Summer Baseball League and Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod Summer Baseball League. Morris began the summer with Green Bay and finished 1-2 with a 2.57 ERA in seven games (four starts). In 28 innings, Morris allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 27 hits and nine walks while striking out 21. Morris appeared in one game with Chatham and allowed one run on four hits.

As a sophomore in 2017 at Middlebury, Morris went 6-4 with four complete games and a 4.46 ERA in 13 games (12 starts). Morris also led the team in starts (12), wins (six), complete games (four) and innings (68.2).

During the summer of 2017, Morris played for the Seacoast Mavericks of the Futures Summer Collegiate Baseball League. In 14 games (two starts), Morris went 1-3 with an 8.01 ERA.

As a freshman at Middlebury in 2016, Morris posted a 2-4 record with three complete games and a 6.18 ERA in 10 games (eight starts). Morris also led the Panthers pitching staff in starts (eight) and innings pitched (51).

Lugo didn’t appear in a game with Cleburne and was 1-2 with a 1.37 ERA in 16 relief appearances with the ‘Cats. Lugo leads the RailCats pitching staff with six saves and 11 games finished and has allowed just three runs on 14 hits and 12 walks while striking out 31 over 19.2 innings.

Lugo didn’t allow a run in a season-high-tying 13.1 straight innings to begin the year after signing his first Independent Professional Baseball (IPBF) contact with the RailCats on May 18th. Lugo made his IPBF debut that night in the second game of the year against the Chicago Dogs and retired eight of the nine batters he faced, including the final seven. Lugo threw 1.1 scoreless innings of relief in his home debut on May 22nd vs. Sioux City and recorded his first IPBF hold on May 24th vs. Sioux Falls and recorded his first save IPBF save on May 25 vs. Sioux Falls with a perfect top of the ninth.

Lugo signed with the Cincinnati Reds as an international free agent in 2014 and made his professional baseball debut with the Dominican Summer League Reds (Rookie Affiliate) that summer. In 19 games with the DOSL Reds, the right-hander went 3-3 with 10 games finished, two saves and a 2.90 ERA.

In 2015, Lugo spent time with both the Arizona League Reds (Rookie Affiliate) and the Billings Mustangs (Rookie Affiliate) of the Pioneer League. In 17 appearances, the right-hander finished without a record, 10 games finished, two saves and a 4.67 ERA. Lugo began the year with AZL Reds, recording two saves and two games finished in four relief appearances before getting promoted to Billings. In 9.1 innings with the AZL Reds, Lugo allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits and one walk while striking out 13. Lugo didn’t allow a run or walk in two of his last three appearances with Billings and finished with one save and a 5.60 ERA in 13 relief appearances with the Mustangs.

In 2016, Lugo received a promotion to full-season baseball, going 1-1 with a career-best 2.62 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9 (walks per nine innings), 12.6 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) and 5.92 K/BB (strikeout-to-walk ratio) with the Dayton Dragons (Class-A Affiliate) of the Midwest League. The right-hander also recorded 10 games finished and two saves. A native of Las Matas de Farfan, Dominican Republic, Lugo didn’t allow a run in four of his first five appearances and didn’t allow a run in a career-best 19.2 consecutive innings over his last eight appearances of the year.

In 2017, Lugo split time between Dayton and the Daytona Tortugas (Class-A Advanced Affiliate) of the Florida State League. In a career-high 44 relief appearances between the two clubs, the right-hander posted a career-best four wins, 70 innings pitched, 13 games finished, 88 strikeouts, .216 opponents batting average and 310 batters faced. Following the 2017 season, Lugo was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the second round (36th overall) of the Triple-A Phase of the MLB Rule 5 Draft but didn’t play for any of the Twins’ affiliates.

Welz was slashing .170/.330/.205/.492 with 10 runs, 15 hits, three doubles, four RBIs, three hit by pitches and four stolen bases in 38 games (24 starts) in his first season in the American Association.

Welz signed his first American Association baseball contract with the RailCats on May 17th and went 1-for-2 with a double and a run that night in the season opener against the Chicago Dogs in his league debut. Welz drew a pinch-hit bases loaded walk in his home debut on May 23rd vs. Sioux City.

Welz signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2015 following his senior season at Texas Southern University. Welz reported to the Arizona League Angels (Rookie Affiliate) and went 6-for-28 with six runs, six hits, two doubles, 10 RBIs and a stolen base in his first season of professional baseball.

Welz split the 2016 season in the Angels minor league system with different affiliates. Between the Burlington Bees (Class-A Affiliate) of the Midwest League, Inland Empire 66ers (Class-A Advanced Affiliate) of the California League and the Arkansas Travelers (Double-A Affiliate) of the Texas League, Welz slashed .241/.316/.327/.643 with 35 runs, 76 hits, 10 doubles, one triple, five home runs, 35 RBIs and eight stolen bases in a career-high 98 games.

Welz returned to Double-A in the Angels system in 2017 and slashed .235/.316/.286/.602 with 12 runs, 28 hits, six doubles, eight RBIs and two stolen bases before signing his first Independent Professional Baseball (IPBF) contract with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League later in the season. In 45 games with the Otters, Welz slashed .214/.301/.305/.606 with 23 runs, 33 hits, five doubles, three home runs, 15 RBIs and eight stolen bases. Welz re-signed with the Otters in 2018 and slashed .170/.330/.205/.535 with 10 runs, 15 hits, three doubles, four RBIs and four stolen bases in 38 games.

Gary continues their season-long 10-day, 11-game homestand on Monday night at 7:10 p.m. in the opening contest of a four-game series against the league-best Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. Frank Moscatiello (0-0, 4.09) makes his first American Association start for the RailCats while the RedHawks have yet to announce their starter.

Monday’s game is another Meaty Monday and Metro Monday. Visit participating Northwest Indiana Metro by T-Mobile locations for complimentary tickets and enjoy our hamburgers for just $2. Monday’s game is also Steger-South Chicago Heights and Lowell Public Library Night.

Ticket packages for the 2019 Gary SouthShore RailCats season are available online at railcatsbaseball.com and can also be purchased by calling the RailCats ticket line at (219) 882-BALL. The RailCats box office is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.