Morlan, who will turn 23 before Opening Day, caught the eye of Milwaukee officials at last year's All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium, according to Brewers director of pro scouting Dick Groch. The Brewers are working to fill holes in their bullpen, and Morlan fit the bill because he's a strike thrower.
Per Draft rules, the Brewers must keep Morlan on their 25-man roster all season or offer him back to Tampa Bay for half of the original $50,000 claimer's fee.
"Rule 5 guys are so tough to keep, so we had to find somebody who was strong and durable and somebody who throws strikes," Groch said. "It's always a stretch, but what you're looking for is a guy who can come in and throw strikes."
Morlan, whose best pitch is a 92-94 mph fastball, was 4-2 with a 3.64 ERA and one save in 30 relief appearances with Double-A Montgomery last season. He doesn't necessarily project as a closer, Groch said, but could serve the Brewers like Guillermo Mota did last season, when Mota started the year as a sixth- and seventh-inning man capable of working multiple frames.
Born in Cuba, Morlan and his family defected to the U.S. when he was 12 and settled in Miami. The Twins selected him in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and traded him after the 2007 season to Tampa Bay along with shortstop Jason Bartlett and pitcher Matt Garza in the deal that sent Delmon Young to the Twins.
Milwaukee took Morlan with the 16th pick in the Rule 5 Draft, which is designed to prevent prospects from stagnating in their organization's Minor League chain. With the fifth pick, the Orioles took Palmisano, once considered the Brewers' top catching prospect but now trying to resurrect his career after a knee injury.
Palmisano, 26, missed most of the 2008 season after he injured his left knee in Spring Training and needed surgery. He boosted his stock by hitting .370 in the Arizona Fall League.
"We anticipated losing him," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "The way catching is [scarce] and the way he played in the Fall League, I think he was able to establish that he was healthy. We're not surprised that we've lost him."
Ash said other Brewers catching prospects had moved ahead of Palmisano. Among them are Angel Salome and Vinny Rottino, both of whom are on the 40-man roster, plus Jonathan Lucroy and 2008 First-Round Draft pick Brett Lawrie. Ash also mentioned Eric Fryer, who is listed as an outfielder but caught more during the second half of his season at Class A West Virginia.
The Brewers will receive $50,000 from the Orioles for Palmisano. If he does not stick in the big leagues, the Orioles would have to offer him back to the Brewers for $25,000.
In the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the Brewers selected four players and lost two.
Right-hander Mark Holliman was selected in the first round of the Triple-A phase off the Double-A Tennessee roster of the Chicago Cubs. Holliman was 4-5 with a 4.64 ERA in 31 games, 18 starts, between Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa last season.
Their other picks included second baseman Jonathan Ash, at 28 a relatively veteran Minor League infielder, from the Astros, infielder Shane Justis from the Dodgers and infielder Juan Sanchez from the Twins. Both Justis and Sanchez are shortstops.
The Brewers' two losses in the Triple-A phase of the Draft were right-hander Patrick Ryan to Seattle and shortstop Guilder Rodriguez to the Rangers.