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New York Mets promote Virgin Islands native Akeel Morris

The Mets promoted Akeel Morris to bolster a recently taxed bullpen. Adam Rubin/ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets are promoting right-handed reliever Akeel Morris directly from Class A St. Lucie for Monday's series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Mets did not announce the corresponding move, but they merely are covering their overtaxed bullpen with the promotion.

The relief corps logged 5 1/3 innings in relief of Dillon Gee on Sunday, a day after having to work overtime in an 11-inning game.

Gee will be unavailable for a few days after starting Sunday's game. Bobby Parnell will not be asked to work a third straight day on Monday as he returns from Tommy John surgery. And Sean Gilmartin's availability for the series opener against the Jays also is questionable since he logged two innings on Sunday.

So Morris -- a 10th-round pick in 2010 -- appears a very brief safety net and an appropriate choice because he already is on the 40-man roster and within relative proximity.

Vic Black, also on the 40-man roster, was unavailable for promotion because of a minor leg injury unrelated to his previous issues and because he had not spent the required 10 days in the minors since being taken off a rehab assignment. He has not pitched for Triple-A Las Vegas in six days.

Morris, a 22-year-old right-hander from the U.S. Virgin Islands, has 13 saves in 14 chances and a 1.69 ERA with the Florida State League club.

He primarily relies on a fastball that sits at 90-94 as well as a changeup. He also has a slider.

Morris' mother played in a local softball league in the U.S. Virgin Islands, while his father played high school basketball. They encouraged him to start playing baseball at age 5.

"It's actually growing down there," Morris once told ESPN.com about the sport in his homeland. "I watched baseball games on TV. I would see it on ESPN -- and for some reason the Florida Marlins a lot, because they're the closest."

His favorite player at that time?

"Growing up I played the middle infield, until I started pitching. So Derek Jeter was my favorite," Morris said.

According to Baseballreference.com, 11 players have been born in the Virgin Islands and reached the majors: Jerry Browne (1986-95), Joe Christopher (1959-66), Horace Clarke (1965-74), Callix Crabbe (2008), Henry Cruz (1975-78), Midre Cummings (1993-2005), Elrod Hendricks(1968-79), Al McBean (1961-70), Jose Morales (1973-84), Calvin Pickering (1998-2005) and Elmo Plaskett (1962-63).

Morris said he auditioned for the Mets in the Dominican Republic, with his parents funding the trip.

"Other teams were interested just from going to showcases [in the U.S.] and playing summer ball," Morris said. "But I just went down to the Dominican to see what could happen for me. And I chose the Mets' complex and I worked out there. And that's how the Mets got interested in me."