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June 29, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Lots of consequences for Mariners in opting not to skip Brandon Morrow’s rotation spot

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Generally speaking, when a team has a fifth starter fighting to go five innings per start, the trend would be to skip that pitcher when there’s an off-day. Especially heading into a homer-happy ballpark like the new Yankee Stadium against a killer lineup with plenty of lefty power hitters.
But there is nothing “usual” about this team when it comes to Brandon Morrow, so why start now?
In fact, the Mariners do stand to gain some positive consequences from the decision to start Morrow tomorrow night here in New York, rather than continue with a normal four days’ rest for Jarrod Washburn, Jason Vargas and Felix Hernandez. And those, just might negate the one obvious negative.
In both cases, Hernandez is involved.

For one thing, the Mariners still get to send two lefties — Washburn and Vargas — to the mound against the Yankees. That could prove important because the big “wind tunnel” at the new park blows towards right field, where lefty hitters tend to pull the ball. That could very well be negated by the dual southpaw combo the Mariners will offer up.
Morrow has faced the Yankees in New York before and dominated them last year in his first game as a starter. Not that I see that playing much of a factor this time around, but every little bit helps.
The big consequence of this move is that Hernandez gets to return to Fenway Park, where he’s held opponents to a .140 average and zero earned runs over 15 career innings of work.
Had the Mariners skipped Morrow in New York, then Hernandez would have had to pitch at Yankee Stadium in the series finale and the Yanks have a .327 average off him in the Big Apple (though that might change in a new park, granted).
Bottom line: odds appear to be better going with Hernandez at Fenway.
Also, giving pitchers like Washburn an extra day off by not skipping Morrow can help him overcome some of those aches and pains.
Now, the downside to all this.
First and foremost is that the Mariners will not have Hernandez around to face the Texas Rangers in that important four-game homestand against the Rangers. The way things are now slotted, Hernandez will face the Orioles in the series finale at Safeco Field, then be done before the All-Star break.
Here’s a thought, though…
With the break coming up, do the Mariners perhaps consider starting Hernandez on short rest in the finale fourth game of the Texas series?
I say they just might do it.
Otherwise, Hernandez faces an awfully long layoff from his final start through until the end of the break. Sure, he could pitch in the All-Star Game. But that would almost amount to a side session of one inning. No one says he has to throw nine innings against the Rangers.
But I’d take five or six innings out of Hernandez any day and then turn things over to Chris Jakubauskas. Much will depend on how Hernandez throws in Boston and then how the Mariners do as a team against Baltimore.
Still, if the M’s have a 4-1 lead after seven innings against the Orioles nine days from now, don’t be surprised to see Hernandez pulled if he’s only at 88 pitches or so.
In fact, I’d be surprised if the team wasn’t considering this scenario. Hernandez flat-out owned the Rangers in Texas the last time he faced them, handing his team a 2-0 lead after eight innings before Morrow blew the game.
So, those are the pros and cons of this move. Other than forcing Hernandez to perhaps start on short rest, the Mariners appear to have things working in their favor after this decision.



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