Morrow returns to the mound on Saturday

Morrow returns to the mound on Saturday

Morrow returns to the mound on Saturday
BALTIMORE -- The wave of reinforcements will continue for the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon when Brandon Morrow takes the mound for the first time in more than two months.

Morrow is set to face the Orioles in his first appearance since straining his left oblique muscle on June 11 in Toronto. It's another welcome addition for the Blue Jays, who get back their best pitcher in the same series their top hitter, Jose Bautista, also returned from a prolonged absence.

"It has been a lot longer than I would have hoped, but it was one of those injuries that you had to play it by ear until you're feeling good and strong," said Morrow, who is 7-4 with a 3.01 ERA in 13 starts this season. "I'm feeling good and strong now, got all my work in during my rehab assignment and I'm ready to go."

When Morrow went down in early June it seemed to set off a ripple effect of injuries throughout Toronto's roster. Within the span of four days, fellow starters Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek went down with season-ending injuries while relievers Luis Perez and Jason Frasor soon joined that list as well.

Even when the injuries stopped affecting the pitching staff they began to impact the everyday lineup. Regulars Adam Lind, J.P. Arencibia, Brett Lawrie and Bautista all went down for a long period of time. Colby Rasmus, Edwin Encarnacion and David Cooper have been forced to deal with nagging ailments.

It's a situation that became surreal over time and something Morrow had never seen before in his career.

"It was pretty tough not being around, that's what wears on you the most, watching the team struggling and more guys going down," said Morrow, who still ranks second in the American League with three shutouts.

"It was tough being out. I probably didn't watch as much as most people would think. It's hard to sit and watch the games when you're not there and do all of that but I was pulling for the guys."

Morrow made five rehab appearances prior to re-joining the Blue Jays on Friday night in Baltimore. He threw a combined 20 1/3 innings while allowing five earned runs on 18 hits while striking out 12 for Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire.

The 28-year-old will be on approximately an 85-to-95 pitch count on Saturday as he gets eased back into the rotation. The Blue Jays will have long reliever Chad Jenkins ready to go after his outing.

The 85-pitch mark is close to the number he threw during his last start for New Hampshire, and the hard-throwing right-hander said he didn't have any difficulty maintaining his stuff as the innings wore on.

"I felt good from my first [start], Morrow said of his rehab. "I really didn't miss a beat, I think, mechanically or with my arm. That's the good thing with it not being an arm injury. I was able to at least keep the feel of the baseball, even if I was throwing gingerly.

"Getting the feel back didn't really take long at all. It was just getting to that point where I felt like I could really push myself."