Blue Jays: Don’t be surprised by Morrow’s bullpen success
Brandon Morrow has been thriving as a reliever for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Blue Jays fans.
Once upon a time, the Blue Jays acquired a right handed pitcher from the Seattle Mariners by the name of Brandon Morrow. The former first round pick had bounced between the starting rotation and pitching out the bullpen in Seattle, and then GM Alex Anthopoulos saw a power arm with great potential. The Jays shipped Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez to the Mariners in exchange for Morrow, and immediately planted him in their rotation in 2010.
He had some success in the role and looked like he had potential ace stuff, but struggled to find consistency in his performance, and in his health. The best season he had was in 2012, when he went 10-7 with a 2.96 ERA in 21 starts. It looked like he had finally taken the step forward that Anthopoulos always expected, but unfortunately it just didn’t last.
He laboured through two more seasons of poor health in Toronto, and eventually landed with the San Diego Padres in 2015, but made just five starts. Finally in 2016, he was permanently moved back to the bullpen, and that’s when his career took a different path. In just 18 appearances, Morrow posted an ERA of 1.69, which was impressive despite the relatively small sample size.
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In 2017, he proved that he’s a force to be reckoned with, at least out of the bullpen. He made 45 appearances and had an ERA of 2.06, mostly performing as the set-up man for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s been a crucial arm in their bullpen, and a solid bridge to super-closer, Kenley Jansen.
For Blue Jays fans, this shouldn’t be as big of a surprise as it may be for the rest of baseball. For those of us who’ve been following the team since the start of this decade or longer, we remember fondly the moments where Morrow’s fastball was untouchable, and his slider made opponents look foolish. It wasn’t hard to see what the front office saw in him back then, and it felt like if he could ever “put it together”, that he was the type of arm who could blossom into a staff ace.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays and for Morrow back then, things didn’t work out like many of us dreamed, and alongside Ricky Romero‘s fall from grace, the Blue Jays’ rotation went through some tough years right when it looked like they might be putting together a pretty talented group.
Now that he’s moved into a permanent role in the bullpen, he’s found a valuable role with the National League Champions, and will no doubt earn a greater compensation, and also extend his career as a result of the move. He allowed just 31 hits in 43.2 innings this season, and struck out 50 batters in the process as well. After earning 1.25 million in 2017 with the Dodgers, he’ll be due for a substantial raise next season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he stayed in Los Angeles either.
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At 33, he’s got a chance to put together a nice back half of his career and finally reach the potential we saw from 2010-2014, just in a different role. And that should be no surprise to Blue Jays’ fans if you ask me.