morrow.jpg
Kevin P. Casey
One of the most exciting stories of this Mariners' season was going to be Brandon Morrow's conversion into a starter. The 2006

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Brandon Morrow Stops Starting

morrow.jpg
Kevin P. Casey
One of the most exciting stories of this Mariners' season was going to be Brandon Morrow's conversion into a starter. The 2006 first-round draft pick was lights-out as a reliever last year, and said he was eager to move into the starter's role. When he finally got a chance to start, he nearly no-hit the Yankees.

Now he says he doesn't want to start anymore, which means the M's can hope for maybe 80 innings out of him, instead of 200+. Morrow cites his diabetes and his arm, but mostly his comfort with being in the bullpen: "I feel that's like my home now. I've been there two years and I don't know if I could go back.''

Keep in mind, this was the result of the M's (under Bill Bavasi) bringing him up early in 2007 (to bolster the bullpen of a team they thought was a contender but was really just lucky (-27 run differential)) and then kept him there last year, for no good reason, as Jesse Froehling detailed in his SW feature on Morrow last year:

Back in the States, however, Morrow began 2008 where he ended 2007: in the bullpen. Why?

"I know [the Mariners] saw the same thing that I saw in Peoria in spring training," says Joe Sparks, a scout for the Athletics. "You say, 'You know what? We got Putz that can close out games, and here's a guy we can pitch in the seventh or eighth inning and we'll be home free...' He had command of his pitches. It didn't look like he had anything to gain by going to AAA or AA."

Sparks, however, says that if the M's actually had been trying to groom Morrow for the starting rotation, they went about it all wrong. "If you decide that this guy's going to be one of your starters, then it's a different story," Sparks says. "You want him to go down and start in AA or AAA and get as many innings as you possibly can."

That said, Sparks concedes: "You could see right off the bat that this guy was going to make the team, because it was the perfect situation for him and the club to pitch at that level right after they signed him."

One AL scout, who asked not to be named, says the M's would have been better off sending Morrow to the minors far earlier to hone his starting chops--as the club recently did with Rowland-Smith, a steady left-handed long reliever who was sent to AAA Tacoma in late July to transition into a starting role. Rowland-Smith, who rejoined the Mariners this past Saturday, was 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA in 18²³ innings with Tacoma.

"[The Mariners] look like they went for the quick fix by rushing [Morrow] into middle relief last year," the anonymous scout says. "No question in my mind he would have been better off developing in the minors last year. If they ultimately decided he was going to end up a closer, that's fine. But I think they would have found out more about him as a starter in the minors last year than in 63 innings in the big-league pen."

Way to go, M's. Here's hoping Jack Z. handles things a little smarter.

 
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