Former Blue Jays

Brandon Morrow: From Blue Jays Days to the World Series

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After a decade in the big leagues, Brandon Morrow is getting his first taste of postseason baseball. His path to the World Series has been anything but meteoric, but the right-hander has discovered new life as setup man for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Since his debut in 2007, Morrow has made tours with three teams, he experienced several season-ending injuries and signed a few minor league contracts along the way. His latest deal with the Dodgers is proving to be his most successful yet.

Seven years after suiting up for the Toronto Blue Jays, Brandon Morrow is getting his first taste of postseason baseball. But it isn’t with the Blue Jays; it’s with the organization where he’s discovered new life as a reliever: the Los Angeles Dodgers.



Blue Jays fans of the last decade may remember Morrow very well. He’s the high-upside pitcher who came to the Blue Jays in exchange for Brandon League back in December of 2009.

In 2010, Morrow complimented a promising, young starting rotation in Toronto comprised of Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum and Brett Cecil. The sky was the limit for the hard-throwing right-hander in Morrow.

There was always the hope he would blossom into a star in Toronto. That never came to fruition.

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Morrow had his moments; but he wasn’t able to put it all together for an extended period of time with the Blue Jays. For the most part, Morrow spent his tenure in Toronto as a starter, but towards the tail-end, the club dabbled with him as a reliever.

The bullpen is often a place for failed starters, a label unfit for Morrow; who was arguably on the precipice of a promising career as a starting pitcher. In 2017, with a slimmed-down repertoire and his most-healthy season in years, Morrow is making the most of his stint with the Dodgers.

He was drafted in 2006 by the Seattle Mariners and spent much of his time with the M’s throwing out of the bullpen. All but 15 of his appearances as a Mariner were as a reliever. Seattle stuck Morrow in the bullpen and he fared pretty well during his first two seasons in the bigs.

Mid-way through the 2009 season, the Mariners opted to stretch Morrow back out into a starter. It proved to be a wise decision as he pitched to a 3.68 ERA in ten starts in the second half of 2009 for the Mariners. This undoubtedly piqued the interest of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Morrow was a solid reliever, but his upside was as a starter. When the Blue Jays acquired Morrow in December of 2009, they did it with the intention of Morrow continuing his pilgrimage as a promising, young starter.



The promise was there. Morrow’s high-velocity fastball and the ability to rack up strikeouts had people salivating. At the time, Marcum, Romero and Cecil were the Blue Jays’ finesse pitchers, but Morrow was the power arm among the starting five.

2010 and 2011 were up-and-down seasons for Morrow. From month to month, it seemed like he was teetering from greatness to having it all unravel at a moment’s notice. The high-water mark of Morrow’s career with the Blue Jays was his near no-hitter on August 8th, 2010.

 
He was one out away from recording only the second no-hitter in Blue Jays history, but Morrow ultimately ended up with one measly hit against him and he struck out 17 Rays batters that afternoon. That felt like Morrow’s coming out party, but in actuality, it never got started.

Morrow was lights-out through his first 12 starts of the 2012 season as was putting forth a Cy Young-worthy season. Then disaster struck.

The Blue Jays had three starters go down with significant injuries in the span of just four days. Morrow was among them, along with Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek.

An oblique injury sidelined Morrow for most of the second half of 2012, but he came back in late August and picked up where he left off. Morrow posted quality starts in five of his final eight starts down the stretch.

 
However, injuries reared their ugly head again in 2013 and 2014 for Morrow. Perhaps as one last Hail Mary attempt, the Blue Jays tried Morrow out of the bullpen in September of 2014.

The Blue Jays held an option on Morrow for the 2015 season but the club declined it and elected to let him walk as a free agent. However, not before the club considered re-signing Morrow as a reliever. Alex Anthopoulos mentioned this on TSN 1050:

“We talked to him at the time about wanting him back as a reliever, but as he told me on the phone back then, his heart was still in starting. He wanted to exhaust it.”

Morrow opted to ink a modest $2.5 million/one-year deal with the Padres in December of 2014.



A shoulder impingement forced Morrow to shut down his 2015 season after only five starts, but he came back to the Padres on a minor league deal in early 2016. Morrow went a full 15 months without even pitching in the majors, as he was called up by the Padres on August 13th, 2016.

Much like his final stretch as a Blue Jay, Morrow appeared solely out of the bullpen down the stretch in 2016, and he once again raised a few eyebrows as a dark horse relief option. From mid-August until season’s end, Morrow threw in 16 games.

At this point, Morrow had everything working against him. As a 31-year old failed starter who missed significant time in the five previous seasons, there weren’t many suitors for his services.

One team came calling; and wouldn’t you know it – it was the Los Angeles Dodgers – the very same team where Alex Anthopoulos had set up shop as the VP of Baseball Operations. The same man who acquired Morrow in the first place back in 2009 with the Blue Jays.

Earlier this year, the Dodgers inked Morrow to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training at a modest $1.25 million. It turns out that may have been among the wisest $1.25 million the Dodgers spent in 2017, as he quickly settled in as the Dodgers setup man.

Morrow’s call-up in late May fortified the Dodgers’ deadly bullpen. He didn’t pitch a full season in the majors, but between Triple A and MLB, Morrow appeared in 65 games in 2017; the most in one single season of his career.

Last night, Morrow capped off his seventh appearance of the postseason by striking out the side and lowering his 2017 playoff ERA to 1.07.

Now the Dodgers are making their first trip to the World Series since 1988. It’s hard to believe this is Morrow’s first trip to the playoffs, but the right-hander is an unsung hero of the Dodgers’ bullpen; a relief corps which has been historically dominant this postseason.

Morrow’s time in Toronto fizzled out as quickly, but from a Blue Jays fan’s perspective, it warms the heart to see this former Blue Jay find success in the National League. And now he’s four wins away from winning a World Series ring.

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez “mine” incident. He’ll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.


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