Dodgers Bullpen: Making a Case for Brandon Morrow

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(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

When the Dodgers signed veteran righty Brandon Morrow to a minor league deal back in January, it didn’t create much buzz among the fan base, much less signify any type of major upgrade in the bullpen. However, if the 32-year-old Santa Rosa native can conceivably put his injuries behind him and earn a spot on the club’s 25-man roster, the relief corps just might end up being a bit stronger.

After missing almost 18 months with a shredded shoulder, Morrow posted a 1.69 ERA in 18 relief appearances after his return to the mound for the Padres towards the end of last season, tallying eight strikeouts and three walks in the process. He appears to be healthy so far this spring, and if he’s able to find his way to the Dodgers’ big league Opening Day squad, he’ll score a $1.25 million paycheck for the upcoming campaign.

As far as his history goes, fans of the Dodgers probably remember Morrow most for being selected two spots ahead of resident ace Clayton Kershaw in the 2006 draft.

Although he began his major league career in the bullpen, he was a double-digit winner in three consecutive seasons as a starter for Toronto from 2010-12. Overall, Morrow has tallied a 44-43 record with a 4.22 ERA and 16 saves in nine major league seasons with the Mariners, Blue Jays and Padres. He has made 236 career appearances, including 113 starts.

“It’s been challenging at times,” Morrow said last season regarding his 15-month road back to the big leagues. “It definitely went slower than I thought it would coming into spring. I’m feeling good now, everything has progressed nicely since I’ve cut down the innings and had some consistent work.”

Throwing in relief seems to be the proper medicine for Morrow, who registered five consecutive years with 10 or more starts from 2009-2013 with both Seattle and Toronto. The righty said last fall that he feels comfortable throwing in more condensed outings, but begins to start feeling a bit shady when he cranks up his pitch count.

“I thought early on, before I really got to those higher pitch counts, that I felt really good starting,” Morrow explained. “I still felt great at 60, 65 pitches. It was when I was repeating at 90 and 100 pitches that I seemed to get sore afterwards and had to take time off. Relief was always the best option.”

As far as his repertoire goes, Morrow has the ability to throw from a vast selection of pitches, always being known to tinker with different styles and release points. Before his shoulder impingement, though, his fastball sat at 94-96 MPH, while occasionally topping out at 98 on the gun. The best thing about his four-seam is that it has late movement, and can be deadly up in the zone when it’s working properly. Back in the day, he was once notorious for his splitter, though recently he has focused on a more controlled and steady slider and cutter.

It’s tough to guess exactly how well he’s throwing in his current regimen, yet during 2017 Cactus League play, Morrow has already appeared in three contests, registering an even three innings of work with five strikeouts, while allowing four earned runs on seven hits.

Even though he’s not currently on the club’s 40-man roster, there’s presently a single vacancy which was created when Chase De Jong was sent to Seattle, possibly reserved for Morrow if he proves to be worthy.

Looking towards the upcoming regular season, if Morrow does find himself on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster, he’ll add another much-needed veteran presence behind headliners Kenley Jansen and Sergio Romo. And if he can find a way to get that heater working magically like it did a few short seasons ago, Morrow could prove to be an important piece of the team’s success moving forward.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

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