ROCHESTER – Brandon Morrow knows his return to the Toronto Blue Jays will be in the bullpen.
The 30-year-old right-handed pitcher has spent the last four years of his career as a starter, but after nearly four months on the disabled list, his role for the rest of 2014 will need to be as a reliever.
That’s why Morrow declined a start with Single-A Dunedin on Wednesday and why he did not want Buffalo Bisons’ manager Gary Allenson to tell him when to expect to go in the game against the Rochester Red Wings Saturday night at Frontier Field.
So Morrow got the juices flowing when Allenson called to the bullpen telling him to get warmed up.
Morrow took the mound in the eighth inning, pitching a scoreless frame, as the Bisons earned a 3-0 win over the Rochester Red Wings.
Morrow gave up one hit, a high-hop infield bouncer, which allowed Eric Farris to beat the throw to first. He threw 14 pitches, 11 for strikes.
His velocity was around 96 mph and topped out at 98.
“Everything went to plan,” Morrow said. “I threw strikes and not just that I had good command. I threw the ball where I wanted to with good velocity and that’s really all you can ask for.”
“I’ve only seen him in spring training,” Allenson said. “He’s obviously got a good arm there, on his way back. I saw one or two sliders he probably needs to sharpen up, but he obviously lives on his fastball and he threw strikes.”
The plan is for Morrow to pitch one inning on Monday in Syracuse in the regular season finale for the Bisons. Then he’d go back to Toronto for the first time since going on the disabled list with a torn tendon sheath on his right index finger. It’s the fourth straight season the right-handed pitcher has ended up on the Blue Jays’ disabled list.
“My arm came along faster than my finger,” Morrow said. “That took the longest just to get it back feeling normal. I was throwing with tape on it for a long time to keep it supported. It’s just a slow, frustrating injury. You put so much pressure on that specific, very small part of your hand when you throw. It just took a long time before it felt strong enough to let it go.”
The plan was to have Morrow throw one inning in relief for the Bisons against Rochester, have Sunday off, then throw one more relief outing in Syracuse on Monday.
But the relief outings are key for Morrow, who knows that going back to the Jays this year will require a bullpen role.
“Well that’s how it’s going to have to be this year. There’s just not enough time to get the innings in to make any starts,” Morrow said. “Even if I could, there’d be like a week and half left by the time I was stretched out to six innings to 85-100 pitches where they need me to be. The season would be almost over anyway.
“I’m just happy to be able to get out there really. It’s been an unfortunate couple of years where I haven’t been able to do my job. I’m just happy right now to be feeling good and be throwing the ball the way I would like to. I’m going to try and continue that the next couple days, then keep that going up there. I’ll just be ready when they call my number.”
Today would have been the turn in the rotation for Daniel Norris, but as expected the prospect has been moved to the bullpen. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Toronto media on Saturday that Norris will pitch in relief, probably one inning.
The Bisons close out the regular season with two games at Syracuse tonight (6:30 p.m.) and Monday (2 p.m.).
Raul Valdes (5-5, 3.82) is scheduled to start for the Bisons tonight with Scott Copeland (2-1, 2.00) scheduled for Monday.
The Chiefs claimed the IL North Division title Saturday night with their 6-2 win over Pawtucket. It’s the first playoff appearance for the Chiefs since 1998.
While their probables were listed as Blake Treinen (8-2, 3.35) and Aaron Laffey (12-5, 3.40) it is very likely the starters will change as the Chiefs juggle their lineup for the playoffs.