Morrow to make transition to starting
Mariners right-hander heading to Triple-A soon
BALTIMORE -- First, Brandon Morrow lost his job as the Mariners' ninth-inning shutdown guy. Now the 24-year-old right-hander is getting a makeover that will transform the deposed closer back into the rotation-worthy pitcher he always thought he could be.
Morrow and Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu aren't sure of the timing, but the plan has come clearly into focus: As soon as the Mariners have enough arms in the bullpen, Morrow will head back to Triple-A Tacoma to stretch himself out for his new role.
"When we have an opportunity, we're probably going to look to send him down," Wakamatsu said before Wednesday's game against the Orioles. "I can't answer when that's going to be."
Unlike Morrow's proclamation in Spring Training that he was committing himself to becoming the team's closer, this switch will be undertaken with long-term goals in mind instead of immediate gratification.
"I was probably trying to convince myself that [moving to the bullpen] was the right decision," Morrow said. "The main thing was I wanted to be here to help the team, to do whatever I could. ... At that point, I wasn't going to be a starter. It was a hasty decision to go back to the bullpen."
Morrow converted all five of his save opportunities before right biceps tightness sent him to the disabled list on May 2, retroactive to April 24. He notched his sixth save the day after he was activated, on May 10, but has struggled since rejoining the bullpen, going 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA and allowing three home runs.
"That kind of started the doubts in my mind," Morrow said. "When you have doubts, you kind of go back to what's comfortable for you, and what was comfortable for me at that point was being in the bullpen."
By then, David Aardsma had entrenched himself in the ninth-inning job, and other relievers were pitching more reliably. Morrow broached the subject of again becoming a starting pitcher, and Wakamatsu, though in need of relief arms, began looking for opportunities to give the right-hander longer assignments. Tuesday night's 2 1/3 scoreless innings was a season high and a step in that direction.
"We're going to stretch him out," Wakamatsu said.
Morrow, frustrated to be 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA after excelling in multiple roles last year, is prepared for the transition.
"Them taking me out of the closer role gave me a chance to step back and look at the situation and think about it more long-term," Morrow said. "In Spring Training, I think I was thinking more short-term. I mean, I'm not even 25 yet. It takes years for guys to get to the top of their game. It shouldn't be about what type of pitcher I'm going to be at 24. ... I should be thinking ahead to what I'm going to be doing at 30."
When he'll report to Tacoma remains dependant on when a bullpen reinforcement can arrive to accommodate the move. Right-hander Roy Corcoran, on the 15-day disabled list with a neck strain, will pitch two innings in a rehabilitation assignment for Tacoma on Thursday. If he's deemed healthy, Corcoran and Morrow could switch places, perhaps as soon as the weekend.
Unlike last summer, when Morrow was briefly farmed out to transition from a short reliever back to a starter, there won't be a hard and fast timetable established for the process. The biggest need, Morrow said, is for a successful changeover, not necessarily a quick one.
"Last year, the main focus was me getting my pitch count up," Morrow said. "I knew I was coming back. I mean, I was working on stuff, but it wasn't really a huge plan after that.
"It's going to be the long road this time," Morrow said. "Last year, it was the month in Triple-A and everybody knew I was coming back. ... We're not putting a timetable on it. I'm just going to go down and work on what I need to work on."
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.