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Blue Jays Throwback: Brandon Morrow, then and now

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September 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Brandon Morrow (21) throws in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
September 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Brandon Morrow (21) throws in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Blue Jays Throwback: Brandon Morrow pitched for parts of five seasons in Toronto, totalling 538.0 IP with a 4.40 ERA

Back in 2012, it looked like the Blue Jays had their rotation of the future. Ricky Romero led a staff that contained Henderson Alvarez, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, and perhaps the most tantalizing arm of the bunch, Brandon Morrow.

Morrow arrived in Toronto in a 2009 deal — seven years ago today — with the Seattle Mariners shortly after the Jays had dealt Roy Halladay to Philadelphia. Toronto sent reliever Brandon League and prospect Johermyn Chavez the other way, rolling the dice on upside with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2006 draft.

The two picks that followed Morrow in that draft? Andrew Miller and Clayton Kershaw.

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At times, Morrow flashed the ability to be a front-line starter in the league. At no time was this more evident than August 8th, 2010, when Morrow fell excruciatingly shy of a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays, finishing with a line of 9.0 innings pitched, one hit, and a whopping 17 strikeouts on 137 pitches.

Later in that 2012 season, it looked like it all came together over 21 starts as Morrow posted a 2.96 ERA.

Even with Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson joining the rotation that next season after the Marlins deal, it was supposed to be the season that Morrow finally established himself. Injuries have hit time and again, unfortunately, and that never did happen.

At times it was Morrow’s shoulder, forearm, or elbow. He battled an oblique injury at one time, one of the peskiest injuries for a pitcher, and in 2013 dealt with an entrapped nerve in his forearm. In 2014, he hit the DL with a torn tendon sheath in his hand. The list goes on.

Morrow is now a free agent at age 32 after a pair of seasons in the San Diego Padres organization. In 2015 he resurfaced for five successful MLB starts and last year pitched 16.0 innings out of the bullpen with a 1.69 ERA. More importantly, Morrow’s fastball was sitting in the mid-90s and, over that very small sample size as a reliever, he mixed that with a slider at a near 50-50 ratio.

The strikeouts weren’t there — just eight in the 16.0 IP — and Morrow posted a 6.38 ERA over a handful of minor league levels with the Padres in 2016, but raw arm talent like his will get a chance until the arm falls off or the pitcher says ‘no’.

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After inking a one-year, $2.5 million deal with San Diego for 2015, Morrow returned on a minor league pact last season and will likely be forced to do the same in 2017.

With teams more eager than ever to find a bullpen diamond in the rough amid a ballooning relief market, he’ll have his shot somewhere.

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