While the surprise demotion of Neil Wagner may have seemed like the big move in camp today, a more subtle maneuver by the Toronto Blue Jays may have a bigger effect on the 2014 team.
According to a report by Jeff Blair at The Globe and Mail, and repeated on his radio show on The Fan 590, the Toronto Blue Jays quietly re-ordered their pitching staff. The big change; Brandon Morrow slips to the fifth spot in the rotation.
Granted, Blair is basing his observation on speculation alone, but he also goes on to say that he talked with “people” about the situations and was basically told that the move wasn’t made to give Morrow the home opener, and it wasn’t injury related. The move to slide Morrow to what appears to be the fifth role in the rotation is strictly performance based per Blair’s “people”.
That would seem to hold up based on his poor spring to date, where he has allowed 6 earned runs over a relatively small sample-size of 5 innings this spring. He’s shown an inability to command his fastball, he’s getting hit to the tune of 14.9 H/9, and he’s got a GO/AO ratio of 0.43. To cap that all of, Morrow surrendered 4 hits and 2 runs against the Canadian Junior National Team on Tuesday.
I repeat, 4 hits and 2 runs against the Canadian JUNIOR National Team.
All of that would seem to support Blair’s theory, but come on, really? J.A. Happ has already fallen from grace (and likely out of the rotation), the Blue Jays failed to land Ervin Santana, and now Brandon Morrow may only be good enough to be the team’s fifth starter?
I know Drew Hutchison is pitching out of his mind right now, and likely deserves a move up the rotation ladder. However, who does that slot in front of Morrow?
The other starters competing for a rotation spot have been underwhelming at best. Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond have matching 7.00 ERAs to sport after their first 9 innings, and Redmond has surrendered the second most home runs of any pitcher in Spring Training. Marcus Stroman, who everyone wanted to succeed, has given up 8 runs and 13 hits in 9 innings of work. Kyle Drabek, worse.
Only Ricky Romero has thrown with some desire to make the club, but despite his stellar ERA and hit numbers, his control is still an issue with 5 walks in 7 IP. That said, he may win the spot by default.
Let’s hope that Blair and his “people” are wrong, that if anything, this is some sort of hidden motivator for Brandon Morrow. Given what was accomplished this winter, and even if Hutchison steps up big time, Morrow is the linchpin of the Blue Jays rotation. His ability to take the hill and be effective over 25-30 starts will dictate what this team accomplishes in 2014.
In short, the Toronto Blue Jays need Brandon Morrow to be more than a 5th starter.