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Can Logan Morrison be more than the Rays' 'Mr. Opening Day'?

Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Logan Morrison (7) salutes skyward after his home run in the third inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017.
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Logan Morrison (7) salutes skyward after his home run in the third inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017.
Published Apr. 4, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG —You know when the other Rays first began to like Logan Morrison? Right away. Like last spring training, early on, when The Glove, Kevin Kiermaier, was running down every fly ball in batting practice — because he could. The hulking Morrison, the newcomer, stepped in the cage and crushed one, long gone. Then he jungle hollered.

"Chase that, Kiermaier!"

Yeah, he threw in a few other words, too, some unprintable.

LoMo was here.

Somehow, Logan Morrison is back this season, brought back, despite lackluster numbers in 2016, and a forearm strain, and a wrist injury that required surgery, plus one of the worst starts to a season in recorded human baseball annals.

Now look.

Mr. April.

FIND YOURSELF in this Gigapan photo of Tropicana Field on Rays opening day.

Morrison's left-handed swing was all business on Opening Day, with three hits, including a two-run single and a solo home run, in the Rays win over the Yankees.

"I think I tripled my hits from last April." Morrison said.

He barely exaggerated. In his first season with the Rays, Morrison nearly defied belief to start the season. He had only six hits and batted .100 in April, with 25 strikeouts in 64 plate appearances. He had no home runs and precisely zero RBIs in 29 games through May 16. It became a cult classic. How Lo could LoMo go?

Then, after going homerless in his first 91 at-bats, Morrison hit 10 homers in 48 games. He batted .272 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs over his final 78 games.

"I'm just glad the Rays stuck behind me," Morrison said.

Will Rays fans feel the same way?

This club could use way mo from LoMo.

It got it on Opening Day.

A lot of people were surprised that Morrison is back. He might have been among them. But the price was right for the Rays (one year, $2.5 million) and the need for bats is real enough. The Rays could use more from Morrison and Steve Souza Jr. and the rest of the gang that seemed straight out of the Island of Misfit Toys.

OUR OPENING DAY GIF TO YOU: Check out this page of animated Rays

Want to know when the Rays, and media, began to like LoMo even more?

It was how he kept his sense of humor last April and into May during his epic struggle.

Made you root for him.

"You see it when you know a guy is struggling and he's out there every day pulling for the rest of us. It just makes you pull harder for him," said Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who also homered and drove in three runs in the opener. "When he did break out of it last year, we were so glad for him."

"He's a big old donkey and he's going to drive in some runs for us," Kiermaier said.

Morrison, 29, doesn't dwell on last year's start. Still ...

"It wasn't easy at all," he said. "Definitely some sleepless nights, for sure. Every day I said, 'Today is a new day.' I remember striking out three, four times and thinking 'What's going on?' It was a combination of a lot of things. Trying to do too much, trying to impress a new team, free agent year, things like that.

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RELATED: More from Martin Fennelly

"We got a lot of guys with chips on their shoulders, who feel like they need to prove stuff, and that's always a dangerous team. What's the chip for me? I don't know if I have the time to explain. I was drafted in the 22nd round. I wasn't a super uber-prospect. I had to earn everything. And I still want to play for a long time."

Morrison smiled.

"If I had 162 games like this, I'd be a Hall of Famer and a really rich man."

The word from Mr. April.

Well, Mr. Opening Day at least.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.