Mariners' Morrow will be a reliever
From almost the day Seattle made him a No. 1 draft pick in 2006, Brandon Morrow has faced endless questions about when his career as a starter would be launched. But Sunday, Morrow announced that the bullpen really is where he wants the remainder of his baseball life to unfold.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — It was more than a forearm strain that Brandon Morrow has been wrestling with the past few weeks.
As time ticked closer to the start of the regular season, and it became obvious Morrow was nowhere near cracking the starting rotation, the third-year Mariners pitcher pondered his future. From almost the day Seattle made him a No. 1 draft pick in 2006, Morrow has faced the pressure to compete with Washington native Tim Lincecum and endless questions about when his career as a starter would be launched.
But then, as it often happens, a new life happened while Morrow was making other plans. And Sunday, Morrow announced that the bullpen really is where he wants the remainder of his baseball life to unfold.
"Once they traded J.J. [Putz], I thought, I kept going back and forth and back and forth," he said, adding that he told the Mariners of his decision roughly a week ago. "I just felt like a big relief when I went back to the bullpen, because I feel that's like my home now. I've been there two years and I don't know if I could go back [to starting]."
And he has no plans to try. Morrow met with Mariners coaches and front-office members early Sunday; they are on-board with the decision and released relief pitcher Tyler Walker a few hours later.
Walker had been one of several candidates vying for the closer's job. Morrow won't automatically be handed the role — whether he even starts the year in the majors will depend on how he looks in his final few bullpen outings here — but he's clearly going to be closing in the not-too-distant future.
"Our biggest need for him right now is to see ... can we get him back-to-back [pitch in consecutive games]?" Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said of Morrow, who has worked just two outings of an inning apiece since March 1 because of the forearm strain. "I don't want to just jump ahead. We're just going to see how he reacts outing to outing."
Morrow agreed that he's "not just going to jump back in and be the closer," but figures things will work themselves out eventually.
The Mariners certainly hope so.
They've got enough mound concerns elsewhere, with Jarrod Washburn becoming the latest starter rocked on Sunday. Washburn gave up seven runs the first two innings as the Mariners were hammered 17-12 by Kansas City.
Seattle's bullpen had yet to see a clear-cut closer candidate emerge before the Morrow decision. Wakamatsu inadvertently let the team's intentions with Morrow slip to reporters last weekend, then hinted the team might bypass a situational left-hander in the bullpen and instead keep a reliever who could go both long and short.
That could be Miguel Batista, who had been in the closer's mix until the Morrow switchover. If Morrow can't close right away, the job would likely go to Mark Lowe, with David Aardsma, Roy Corcoran and Shawn Kelley battling for a setup position after that.
Ryan Rowland-Smith appears poised to step in as the fifth starter in Morrow's place, though Wakamatsu cautioned that nothing has been decided.
The seeds to Morrow's switch were sown well before camp. Morrow was drafted by former general manager Bill Bavasi and scouting director Bob Fontaine, who both have since been fired. The new regime under GM Jack Zduriencik feels no pressure to justify the selection, nor was it completely sold on the idea of Morrow as a starter.
Morrow's diabetes and ability to control his blood-sugar levels while starting had also become a major concern for the team.
"I had troubles with low blood sugars a lot last year," he said of his starting experiences last August and September in Class AAA and the majors. "Especially warming up. And this year as well, the only game I started I was a little low to begin with."
But in the end, he said, the biggest reason for the switch is that his arm just feels more physically suited to the bullpen. Like it's the place he was meant to be all along.
"I feel good about it," he said. "I feel back home."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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