Kile is very much on Morris' mind
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Matt Morris was looking forward to the All-Star break for some physical and emotional healing time. It's been a difficult first half for the Cardinals pitcher.
Morris, 27, is the Cardinals' lone representative at the All-Star Game, but he will not pitch. The right-hander, 10-6 with a 3.55 ERA in 19 starts, is bothered by back spasms.
"I like to compete," Morris said Monday at the players interview session at the Pfister Hotel, "but I think right now the best thing for me is to rest for the second half. It's an honor to be up here and an honor to be around all these guys. But I haven't been throwing the ball well, my back's been hurting a little bit and we all decided it would be best to shut it down for these three days."
A 22-game winner a year ago, Morris ranks among the National League leaders in wins and strikeouts. But he is 0-2 in his last three starts, all since June 22. That's the day teammate Darryl Kile died in a hotel room in Chicago.
"It's been tough," Morris said. "Everybody's taking it differently."
For Morris, it's been a struggle.
"Me, personally, I was pretty close to him," Morris said. "You look to him for advice all the time and some of the things that he told me are still clicking with me, so he's always around. It's hard. He's the missing link on our team -- it just feels weird right now. We'll see what happens. Hopefully we can get stronger."
Kile's locker remains intact in the Cardinals' clubhouse at Busch Stadium.
"His locker is right next to mine and we've got a memorial over there," Morris said. "Just seeing him every day -- they show video and he almost looks real and you want to see him turn the corner. Everybody's still getting used to it."
Kile's death occurred just days after Cardinals longtime broadcaster Jack Buck died. Yet Kile was only 33.
"Jack Buck lived a full life and then to have DK go four or five days later, it was hard on us," Morris said.
The Cardinals, who were in Chicago to play the Chicago Cubs that day, did not play on June 22 but did try to resume their baseball lives in a 8-3 loss at Wrigley Field the next night. Morris doesn't think they were ready to play.
"We should've just forfeited and saved some of our ERAs," he said. "Coming from the hotel, it gave us an eerie feeling and seeing his locker still there with his stuff untouched, it was just a shock for all of us."
Upon returning from Chicago, the Cardinals began a 13-game homestand, so they have not taken a road trip since the tragic event that day. Morris isn't sure he's ready for life without his buddy.
"He was the guy I hung out with all the time," Morris said. "I don't know what's going to happen. I've got friends on the team. But it's different.
"He really meant a lot to me. He had a huge hand in me being a successful pitcher. I got to the big leagues with a certain talent and he really helped me become a winner. I thank him for that. I'll always remember that. But it's hard not to show him I made the All-Star Game and things like that."
During their next visit to Chicago, the Cardinals are considering staying at a different hotel than the Westin, where Kile's body was found. He died in his sleep, apparently from hardening of his arteries.
"I don't think guys want to go back to that scene," Morris said. "We had a couple meetings in those conference rooms. I don't think it would be a good spot for us to go back to."
He finds himself thinking about Kile, his wife Flynn and their three children.
"I feel for Flynn when she puts the kids to bed at 8 o'clock and it was their time to hang out and that's the hard part for her," Morris said. "I think about that and it gets me upset."
Kile's son Kannon threw out the first pitch on the Cardinals first game back at Busch Stadium on June 25, and then hung around the dugout with the players.
"It wasn't like on the first day we said 'We've got to rally,' " Morris said. "It took us awhile to get going. Everybody's pulling for each other.
"The day Kannon threw out the first pitch and stayed in the dugout was kind of relieving to see. He uplifted all of us. Of course, he was sad, but there were other times when he forgot about it. Guys would go strike out and he'd say, 'Hey, what happened?' It just eased the whole moment. That helped us out."
And so will time.
Carrie Muskat is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.