The Los Angeles Dodgers’ reliever was drafted by Seattle in 2006 and traded by the M’s to Toronto in late 2009. Morrow has a 1.08 earned-run average in the postseason entering Game 1 of the World Series against Houston on Tuesday.
LOS ANGELES – You don’t hear resentment in his voice when he talks about his time with the Mariners. He enjoyed Seattle. He appreciated the fans. He bonded with teammates, and all that good stuff.
But Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow can’t help but share an opinion when reflecting on his former club.
“It was inconsistent developmentally,” said the 33-year-old Morrow, who is about to take part in the first World Series of his career. “It was awesome not spending any time in the minor leagues and making the team in the first spring training, but long term, if you think the kid you draft fifth overall is going to be a starting pitcher in the major leagues, you probably want to handle that a little better. But I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus.”
Game 1, Houston @ L.A. Dodgers, 5 p.m., Ch. 13
This was not pent-up frustration Morrow was waiting to unload. It has been eight years since Seattle dealt him to Toronto, and given that he’s about to live out his childhood dream, Morrow doesn’t have much reason to be upset about anything. But he does have a point.
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If the Mariners weren’t postseason contenders in 2007 — when they went 88-74 and finished six games out of the final playoff spot — he likely would have been developed differently instead of being instantly vaulted into the bullpen.
He likely would have spent more time in the minors, where the Mariners would have tried to groom him into a starting pitcher. He likely wouldn’t have vacillated between starting and relieving roles, where he failed to find consistency in either.
It didn’t help that he was drafted in 2006 above Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Tim Lincecum — the latter was a Washington Husky and won his Cys in Morrow’s last two years in Seattle. His draft position wasn’t his fault, of course, but Morrow felt that a bit at the end.
“It wasn’t like I was bad,” he said. “It’s just that (Lincecum) was so good.”
These days, though, Morrow is thriving in a league Lincecum no longer plays in. If not for rock-star closer Kenley Jansen, Morrow’s 2.06 ERA would be the best on the Dodgers.
In seven appearances during these playoffs, Morrow has logged 81/3 innings while posting a 1.08 ERA.
As Jansen said Monday: “There’s a reason we’ve had the best bullpen this postseason — him.”
That’s pretty high praise for a player the Dodgers signed to a minor-league contract in January. That’s pretty lofty acclaim for a player whose injury history includes biceps tendinitis, arm inflammation, an oblique strain, radial nerve entrapment, an index-finger tendon sheath strain, shoulder inflammation and, last year, valley fever, which is a fungal infection of the lungs that feels like the flu.
Morrow — who was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in high school — admits that last malady was the low point for him. He had already lost 10 pounds recovering from shoulder surgery, then dropped another 15 while recovering from the disease.
So when he failed to make the Dodgers’ roster last spring — being relegated to Class AAA Oklahoma City instead — there was reason to think he was done. Now, there’s reason to think Morrow might have another five years left.
Since being called up to the majors in late May, Morrow has been one of the most productive pitchers for the National League’s best bullpen. He said his command and health have never been better, which a career-best 0.916 WHIP would reflect.
Moreover, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said using Morrow is contingent less on what inning it is, and more on who he would be facing. In other words, the Dodgers want Morrow pitching against the opponent’s top hitters.
“You have to pitch extremely well to be a back-end guy facing the best part of the lineup,” Honeycutt said. “That’s where Brandon is right now.”
Relief pitchers are commanding bigger and bigger salaries these days, with closers such as Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel earning $21 million and $13 million, respectively, this year. Morrow won’t command that much scratch, but he’s proven enough to earn one more contract that should set him up for life.
Not that he’s concerning himself with that.
“You can’t think ahead because you have no idea what’s going to happen,” Morrow said.
He would know better than most. Eleven years later, Morrow is finally throwing at the level scouts foresaw when the Mariners drafted him.
He’s been waiting for this moment his whole career. The only option is to embrace it.