Padres Editorial: Brandon Morrow, Closer of the Future?


With the San Diego Padres depth at the starting pitcher position, let’s explore the option of Brandon Morrow pitching out of the bullpen. His history of injuries alone should dictate the Padres to at least explore this possibility. No more 100-120 pitch efforts might just help keep him 100 percent the whole year.

In 2008 for the Seattle Mariners, Morrow pitched out of the bullpen and earned 10 saves. As a 23-year-old relief pitcher that year, he made 39 appearances and recorded a 3.34 era and a 1.144 whip. Those numbers are arguably his best statistical season in the Major Leagues. He was moved into a starter role and never quite had the same consistency. Although in 2009 while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays, Morrow was 10-7 in 21 games started with a 2.96 era and 1.115 whip.

The ability has always been there for Brandon Morrow, but just getting him on the mound is the problem. I understand he would prefer to be a starter, most pitchers do. However, would you rather have a long career as a reliever or be known as a player that just couldn’t stay healthy. Pitching out of the bullpen doesn’t guarantee he will be injury free, but I think it does lessen the strain on a arm for an elder pitcher.

The honor of working with Darren Balsley should immediately pay dividends with all the new pitchers, but I believe Balsley will have the greatest effect on Morrow. If Darren Balsley can harness Morrows pitching motion, and improve on his control, he will be unstoppable. Walks have always been the problem for this 6 foot 3 inch right handed California native.

Brandon Morrow is probably penciled in as the #5 starter, but I believe Odrisamer Despaigne should be given that spot. He is the perfect complement to the Padres staff. James Shields, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy are all hard throwing right-handed pitchers. Throw Morrow out there, and the Padres have five almost identical pitchers. Despaigne with his assortment of slow off speed junk, would be a perfect complement to the “Big 4”.

The term super-reliever is a new concept that is sweeping the Major League community. Think about Madison Bumgarners appearance last season in the 7th game of the World Series. It is basically a starter throwing in a long reliever position but doing it to close out a game, instead of mopping up during a blow out.

You throw three innings in the major leagues while winning then you qualify for a save. Think about this, The Padres are up 7-2 in the top of seventh. Instead of using three different pitchers to close out the game, insert the super reliever and all he has to do is go three innings and give up less that five runs. He should easily be able to do that, shouldn’t he? Plus you save your bullpen the wear and tear of another appearance.

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The idea of moving a starter to the bullpen is about as new a concept as the invention of the wheel. Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz come immediately to mind, as both were extremely successful in the bullpen.  For a modern-day comparison look at Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals. A former starter for the Tampa Bay Rays, Davis has absolutely taken off as a relief pitcher. He posted a 1.00 era this past season with a 0.85 whip. In 72 innings pitched, he struck out a whopping 109 batters. Morrow could easily put up those numbers.

Brandon Morrow has closer type stuff. Joaquin Benoit is slated to close this year with Kevin Quackenbush a chief setup man. Do not be surprised however of Brandon Morrow is eventually moved to the pen. I don’t know if this is something the Padres have discussed, but it makes sense to at least explore the option. Stay tuned and if it happens, remember you heard it here first.

Next: Move On From Cole Hamels

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