UPDATE: 11:05 a.m. on Wednesday: Trade is now official. Conference call with Jack Zduriencik within the hour.
Brandon Morrow is done with his physical and resting up in a Florida hotel tonight ahead of his flight home to Arizona first thing tomorrow morning. Later in the day, the official announcement of his trade from Seattle to the Toronto Blue Jays, for reliever Brandon League and Class A outfielder Yohermyn Chavez should take place.
Morrow and I chatted for a bit about his time in Seattle, what he’ll miss and what he wishes had happened differently. He isn’t really sure how he’s viewed by the year-old regime of new GM Jack Zduriencik but says he thought he’d shown something in September as is “moving forward” as a starting pitcher.
He thanked the M’s for drafting him in the first round and giving him a rare chance to break into the big leagues right away as a reliever in 2007. But that decision, by former GM Bill Bavasi and his counterparts, was a double-edged sword for Morrow,.
“I was never really allowed to develop as a starter the way I and a lot of other people thought I should be allowed to,” Morrow said. “Hopefully, this new chance means I get to develop as a starter more. Changing roles has just been detrimental to me.”
Of course, some of that flip-flopping was Morrow’s fault this year when he switched back to a bullpen role in spring training after losing 12 pounds in a bout with the flu. He knew he’d never log enough innings to break camp in the rotation and wanted to remain in the big leagues so badly that he just reverted to relieving.
Two months later, he changed his mind again.
“Of course, there’s a little bit on me because of what happened in spring training this year,” he admitted.
But the biggest damage, he feels, came after his rookie 2007 season in the bullpen. Morrow had played winter ball in Venezuela and was transitioning to a starter role when the team traded for Erik Bedard and signed Carlos Silva. All of a sudden, Morrow was back in the bullpen the first half of 2008 before again transitioning to a starter role in the second half.
“As a reliever, you get your one inning and I was able to overpower a lot of hitters,” he said. “I think that was a big part of stunting my development because I was allowed to overpower hitters with my fastball.”
All the work he’d done honing his off-speed pitches in Venezuela now had gone out the window. Morrow barely used any as a reliever. Even the “show me” changeup he was told to occasionally flash hitters was just another way to set them up for a fastball strikeout,
“At that point, yeah, I was still happy to be on the team,” he said of the start to his 2008 campaign. “But that was still the biggest point in where my growth was stunted.
“As far as my best interests, that’s pretty much where I think there was a major, major step back. (After Venezuela) I was ready to go and had to change mindsets and change everything else.”
Morrow says he isn’t bitter about the comparisons made between him and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who the Mariners passed over to take Morrow in the 2006 draft. He does say that all the Lincecum talk “starts to get old” and wishes people could understand that Lincecum might have been forced into a bullpen role the same way he was in 2007 had he been with the Mariners at the time.
Morrow doesn’t have too many buddies left from when he first broke in. Only Felix Hernandez remains from the pitchers who began that 2007 rookie season with him.
But Morrow said he “really loves the city” of Seattle. He lived in Kirkland this past season and his girlfriend hails from Seattle as well.
“She goes to school in New York, so I’ll still see her just as much, but her family is still in Seattle so I won’t get to spend as much time with them,” he said.
Now, he says, it’s time to move on to the best place to continue his mound development. He didn’t know how the team’s brass felt about his long-term future, but had read all the trade rumors on the internet and figured there was a decent chance he’d be moving on.
His mentor, J.J. Putz, had that happen to him a year ago. And now, it’s Morrow’s turn to go — to what he hopes will be a place where he can blossom as a starter full-time.
“It looks like that’s what they want,” he said of the Jays.