Morrow, Despaigne Continue Battle for Fifth Rotation Spot


There’s a lot to like about what the San Diego Padres have been doing in Spring Training.

Balls are flying out of the stadium in the hot and dry Arizona air. The offense is slapping numbers like 7 and 10 on the scoreboard. As of noon Tuesday, newcomers Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Will Middlebrooks were all hitting over .300 and each has hit multiple homers this Cactus League season.

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One of the most intriguing stories coming out of Peoria is the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation. The top four positions were set once James Shields signed; joining Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy. Coming into camp, there was speculation about who would fill the final slot: Robbie Erlin, Brandon Morrow, Odrisamer Despaigne, Josh Johnson, Casey Kelly, or Matt Wisler.

Not all of the candidates will be healthy enough to start the season on the roster, and manager Bud Black has seemingly whittled that list down to Morrow and Despaigne. The two have both pitched well, and are locked in a battle, that might come down to the final day of Spring Training.

Morrow, the 30-year old veteran right hander, who signed as a free agent this winter after seeing limited action for the Toronto Blue Jays last year, has pitched very well in three appearances this Spring. Allowing a single run on nine hits in nine innings. Another very encouraging sign, he has walked only two hitters. Control has been a bit of a struggle in Morrow’s career, with a career mark of 4.2 walks per nine innings. Cutting down on free passes will make Morrow a lot more attractive when it comes time to make the final decisions.

Morrow dazzled in his most recent outing on Monday, out pitching this winter’s top pitching free agent Jon Lester of the Chicago Cubs. Morrow needed only 48 pitches to get through four shutout innings, allowing three hits without walking a batter.

Despaigne, the 27-year old pitcher from Cuba, who made his MLB debut with the Padres last year, has nearly matched Morrow in effectiveness. Prior to Tuesday’s start, he hadn’t allowed a run in two appearances this Spring. He kept up the shutout run for the first three innings Tuesday, but faltered a bit in the fourth, allowing a two-run double.

Despaigne has now thrown 8.2 innings, allowing 11 hits and two walks. He has thrown very effectively and has pitched out of jams on several occasions. His ERA is a sparkling 2.07. Dennis Lin of has a great quote from Despaigne:

"“I work hard not only to be the fifth starter,” Despaigne said, with catcher Wil Nieves translating. “I want to be the No. 2, the No. 1, someday.”"

That’s exactly the kind of attitude that we love to see.

There are still a lot of innings to be thrown before the final decision is made and both Morrow and Despaigne are trying to make the decision on the fifth starter as difficult as possible for Bud Black.

So, who do you guys see as the fifth starter for the Pads?

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