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Morales returns to Rox with eye on rotation

Morales returns to Rox with eye on rotation play video for Morales returns to Rox with eye on rotation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Franklin Morales is reliving old times in more ways than one.

Morales debuted with the Rockies in 2007 and was with the team until his contract was sold to the Red Sox in 2011. He's back, courtesy of a trade that sent infielder Jonathan Herrera to Boston for Morales and Minor League righty Chris Martin.

Morales also wants to return to the starter role he had until 2009, when former Rockies manager Jim Tracy moved him to the bullpen and even made him the closer as the team secured its most recent playoff berth.

Morales has just 25 starts in 195 big league appearances. The most in a season was nine for the Red Sox in 2012. But this spring, with Rockies pitchers and catcher beginning workouts at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, he'll be part of a crew trying to unseat No. 5 starter Juan Nicasio.

"I know what I can do, and right now, I have my confidence back," Morales said. "What I need to do is make my pitches and throw the ball down and see what happens."

Last year, Morales asked the Red Sox for a shot at winning a rotation job, but he dealt with a back injury in Spring Training and shoulder and pectoral issues during the season. Morales was limited to 20 appearances (2-2, 4.62 ERA), which included a start that he won. During injury-rehab games in the Minors, Morales went 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA in nine games, five of them starts.

By season's end, Morales was part of the bullpen and made three playoff appearances. But strong starting pitching and the emergence of lefty Felix Doubront reduced Morales' role, and he didn't appear in any of the six World Series games against the Cardinals as the Red Sox captured the title.

However, Morales told his agent, Fernando Cuza, that his goal to pitch in a rotation hadn't changed.

"I wanted to be a starter again, because now I have more pitches and I have more confidence in myself," said Morales, who avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $1,725,000 contract with the Rockies and is eligible for free agency after the season.

It just so happened that the Red Sox and Rockies had a trade match on Dec. 18. If Morales doesn't make the rotation, manager Walt Weiss likely will match him up against lefties.

"One of the first things he did was call me," said Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, a Venezuelan like Morales. "He said, 'I've been traded and you can't believe where.' I said, 'No way.' He came up a little ahead of me and made it to the big leagues when I was in rookie ball. We were always good friends, and it's good to be back with him."

Morales pitched for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League, mostly as a starter, and believes his power is back after all the injuries of last season. He also comes back to the Rockies a better pitcher.

"I can appreciate things more," he said. "I throw more strikes now. When you first come up, you try to do too much. Now I just try to trust my stuff and throw strikes, and I've learned to pitch."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }