LAKELAND, Fla. -- Though nothing is official at this point, the Blue Jays are considering slotting right-hander Brandon Morrow into the fifth spot in the rotation. Part of the reason, according to manager John Gibbons, is that a late debut will give him more time to prepare for the season.
But there's no doubt in Morrow's mind that he'll be ready, he said after pitching in a Minor League intrasquad game on Tuesday in Dunedin, Fla. He pitched against lefty Mark Buehrle for the Jays' Minor League teams after the fields were deemed too wet for his planned Triple-A game against the Yankees in Tampa.
Morrow gave up two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out two over 3 2/3 innings. Working with catcher Erik Kratz, he threw 63 pitches, including 36 strikes. Buehrle, working with catcher Josh Thole, logged 4 1/3 innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out three.
Morrow's fastball was clocked between 90-95 mph, sitting mostly at 92 and 93. He felt as though his fastball command improved after his first inning, liked how he threw his curveball and saw room for improvement with the slider and splitter. The most important thing, he said, is that he felt good on the mound.
"I definitely felt stronger than the last time [against the Canadian Junior National Team]. And I put a little bit more into it, I think," Morrow said. "The time before that was fine -- that was a Major League game. But just mentally, a little bit more, I think. And then the next two [starts] will be good, because they'll be in big league games.
"Everything's coming along well. I got established what I wanted to establish today with the fastball command, with the nice zip and pop on that, and you could see the guys were behind it at times, regardless of the velocity. It wasn't my best velocity, but the swings tell you whether or not you're locating well and the kind of life on it, so that was positive. Everything else has been coming along really well."
Gibbons said on Tuesday morning that he just wants to see that Morrow is able to take the ball every fifth day, because everything else should fall into line naturally for him.
"The key is, is he healthy? Health, that's what's limited him the last couple of years," Gibbons said. "If he's good and he's strong and he makes all his starts, or at least most of them, you've got one of the better pitchers in baseball. But that's been tough for him to do the last few years.
"We want him feeling good ... and all indications are that he's going to be. He can throw strikes. The key for him is getting out there 30 starts a year."