Brandon Morrow was the M's first round pick in 2006, going #5 overall. You might remember him coming into a game earlier this season against the Rangers and being absolutely dominant for four hitters, before Ramon Vazquez turned on a fastball and hit a walk off home run. He's a guy who is viewed as a potential top of the rotation starter.
In 2007, he was impressive in spring training, and ended up breaking camp as a reliever, pitching out of the pen all season, and creating some controversy amongst the M's blogosphere, as it was felt spending a season as a setup man, rather than as a starter in the minors, would hinder his development as a starting pitcher.
Now it is 2008, and the M's are dead in the water. Morrow has been pitching out of the pen, but he still profiles as a potential starting pitcher, where he'd likely have much more value. So, the M's are going to go ahead and start making the switch, send him down to AA or AAA and start stretching him out so he can work as a starter, and come up and be ready to go later this year, right?
All the talk about the Mariners converting Brandon Morrow to a starting role out of the team's bullpen this year was apparently just that.
Now that the talking is done, it seems the Mariners have ruled it out. At least, that's what manager John McLaren told Morrow during batting practice on Tuesday. Before Morrow used some 99-mph heat to get the team out of an eighth inning jam.
"He didn't think it was going to be a good idea to do it during the season," Morrow said before Wednesday night's game.
In a conversation with reporters after Morrow spoke, McLaren indicated the team was leaning away from converting the pitcher in-season.
"I'm not saying we've backed off it," McLaren said. "But there's a lot he has to do to get ready to start. We've by no means given up on this season at all. What he can do in that eighth inning like that is special. We just want to get him in that opportunity a lot more here coming up. A lot of times we just use him to get some work in. We'd like to utilize him when the game is on the line."
In other words, the team may be reluctant to send fans a signal it has "given up" on 2008, before the season is even two months old, by transitioning their best setup reliever. But the team did enter Wednesday 12-½ games out of the division lead and 15 games under .500.
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The pitcher began honing his secondary pitches as a starter in Venezuelan winter ball late last year. He has now got an improved changeup to go along with his high-90s fastball and a slider and says those pitches will only get better if he transitions to starting.