February 14, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Brandon Morrow (23) works out during spring training at Bobby Mattick Training Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsJohn Gibbons revealed a lot about the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays during the team’s State of the Franchise event, nailing down his starting rotation before he saw a single pitch thrown by any one of his starters. It was a foregone conclusion that R.A. Dickey would get the ball for the opener, but Gibbons shocked many when he named Brandon Morrow as the number two starter over Josh Johnson.
It should not have been all that shocking.
Despite making just 21 starts in 2012, Morrow was clearly the ace of the Blue Jays staff last season, posting a 10-7 record, with a 2.96 ERA, a 7.8 K/9 ratio, and a 3.2 bWAR. Quite frankly, Morrow was the sole reasonably sound starter to take the mound for Toronto last year and as a sign of faith to the holdovers from the 2012 squad, Morrow was rewarded as such.
And there is the thought that at 28-years-old, Brandon Morrow is at that point of his career where he needs to show he is ready to step into the role of team leader. By slotting him in behind Dickey in the rotation, he gives opposing teams a different look from the knuckleball, but more importantly, he is slotted into a role of responsibility and he is being asked to pitch up to his potential.
The Blue Jays see a lot in Brandon Morrow, but they want to see more. The team has seen the positives (declining walk rate each of the last three seasons) and the negatives (inability to make all of his starts). The team wants to see Morrow answer the call to step up while also continuing to build off of the improvements he has put forth in the last several seasons.
An immediate goal for Morrow should be Max Scherzer. Also 28-years-old, Scherzer manned up in 2012, posting a 16-7 record with 231 strike-outs and a 4.0 bWAR in 2012. Granted, Scherzer placed 6th in baseball last season in run support, with the Tigers averaging 5.41 runs per start for him, while Morrow got just 3.95 per game from Toronto. The added offense provided by the 2013 line-up should help with that, so it becomes essential that Morrow does his part by making all of his starts and building off of a strong 2012.
If Morrow can make the transition as to a close proximity of Scherzer, his appointment to the number two starter should be more than justified. It will be downright welcomed by the team and its fans.
Can he do it? John Gibbons seems to think so and the Blue Jays are certainly hoping so.