If Brandon Morrow can return to even a slight semblance of his 2017 self this season, the Dodgers’ minimal investment in the 36-year-old veteran might pay huge dividends as the club prepares for yet another championship run.
No question injuries have greatly affected the career of the Santa Rosa native.
After missing more than 18 months with a severe shoulder impingement back in 2015-16, Morrow emerged with the Padres late during the 2016 season just in time to throw in 18 games, proving to teams across the league that he had the goods to succeed.
That winter, President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his crew took a shot on the right-hander, knowing how much he could bring to the table if he was somehow able to return to his form of old.
And return to form he did.
The Dodgers initially selected Morrow’s contract in late May of 2017. After he proved to management that he was 100% healthy, he was called up for good on June 21. Over the course of the 2017 regular season, he made 45 appearances, posting a 2.05 ERA and 1.55 FIP with 50 punchouts and nine walks over 43-2/3 innings of work. He appeared in 14 of the 15 games for the Dodgers that year in the playoffs, as he was one of the few relievers that skipper Dave Roberts trusted in critical situations.
After his fantastic 2017 campaign with the Dodgers, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder signed a two-year deal with the Cubs, much to the chagrin of many Los Angeles fans. He started out strong in Chicago in 2018, but injuries to both his back and his biceps kept him out for the whole second half of the season.
In 2019, an injury to his right elbow kept him sidelined for the entire year. He earned $21 million during the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the Cubs, who ultimately declined his 2020 team option.
“We didn’t see a realistic scenario where he would contribute this year,” Cubs President Theo Epstein said after parting ways with Morrow. “We certainly wish him the best going forward, in and out of baseball.”
Now, it feels like it could be déjà vu all over again.
In December, the Dodgers signed Morrow to a minor league deal in an extremely low-risk, high reward type of scenario.
And, based on the way he has looked so far this spring, there could be a chance he contributes at the big-league level sooner rather than later.
“We know what he can do,” Roberts said of Morrow on Friday. ”A lot of respect. He’s healthy. Threw a really good pen today. In the coming weeks we’ll know more. But to have him healthy—we know what he can do.”
Morrow’s contract included an invite to the big-league side of 2021 spring training. He threw back-to-back bullpen sessions at Camelback Ranch for the team on Friday and Saturday.
“I hope to have the same impact I did before,” Morrow said to reporters after Saturday’s workout. “I’d love to get to the form I was in 2017 and 2018. I feel like I still have it in me if my body is cooperating. So far so good.”
After he was let go by Chicago, Morrow said Friedman contacted him, letting him know he’d be interested in a deal if he ever returned to good health.
“Whenever I felt like I was healthy, he wanted me to let him know,” Morrow said. “I had an offer very early to come back. I put my eye on it and started working out.”
Also during the press conference, Morrow said he was rooting for the Dodgers to win the World Series last year after they were cheated out of a championship in 2017 when he was on the team.
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. For the Dodgers in 2017, his fastball sat at 96-98 MPH, while occasionally topping out at 100 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.
According to Brooks Baseball, Morrow’s four-seam topped out at an even 99 MPH before he was sent to the injured list by the Cubs back in 2018.
Currently, the Dodgers’ 40-man roster is full. However, the club could theoretically make room for Morrow by placing Tommy Kahnle on the 60-day injured list, similar to how they made room for Justin Turner on Friday with Caleb Ferguson.