Brandon Morrow threw four curveballs today. This is where they wound up:
Two way high and away, one in the dirt, and one at the belt in the middle of the plate on a 1-2 count. We've seen what this pitch can do to good hitters when it's located even a little bit well, but while the movement is devastating, it is readily apparent to even the most casual of observers that this is still an ongoing project.
The same goes for all of his offspeed stuff, really. Given the way he's looked in his last two starts, one has to wonder if his debut against the Yankees is sort of his version of Felix's 2005, because since then his location has been lousy, particularly that of his junk. Tonight he threw 27 offspeed pitches. 12 were strikes. Two were cut on and missed. That's bad. In fact, that's sort of awful. I know it's cute and all to say that Morrow's fastball is good enough for him to survive on heat alone, but as a starter, that just isn't true. Morrow the starter needs some sort of offspeed consistency, and it looks like that's still something he needs to work on.
Which isn't a surprise, or even particularly distressing. We've suspected for a while that this would be the case. Better the devil you know, and all that. Morrow's never been able to command his pitches very well since arriving in Seattle, so it shouldn't come as a shock that he's having trouble commanding them out of the rotation. It's just that glorious but annoying first start that gives me pause, because he looked so finished, so polished, only to take two substantial steps back. On the one hand, it was obviously a spectacular experience, and we were able to catch a glimpse of Morrow's ceiling, but on the other, that start made me wonder if Morrow is further along than he really is.
In truth, Morrow has a long way to go before he's a finished product. If he's ever a finished product. I don't think he threw a bunch of fastballs today because he wanted to; I think he threw a bunch of fastballs because he didn't feel comfortable enough going offspeed where he wasn't getting a good grip. That's one of the reasons I wanted him to make the bulk of his transition in the minors; in AAA, you can throw whatever you want whenever you want, because the point is to get better. In the Majors, you throw that in which you have a little confidence, because no matter the team's record, it's still a big stage, and teams want to win. I imagine that can have an effect on how a player develops, as it makes it more difficult to work on the flaws. I don't know, now I'm just speculating.
My point is this - where I was previously all irrationally prepared to consider Morrow an immediate asset, I may have allowed his first start to let me get ahead of myself. He isn't that pitcher yet, and as much as I feel like we deserve that sort of break after a season of hardship, I shouldn't expect him to be. As a starter he is but a prospect, and if completely ignoring that moment in the sun is what I have to do to remind myself that he's going to struggle, and to be content with his progress, so be it. Better to be hopeful and look for improvement than to remember the glory and be disappointed.
Brandon, I can't thank you enough for the excitement you provided with that start against the Yankees. But barring something unforeseen, I'm afraid I may have to try and forget about it, at least for a little while. Thinking about it isn't fair to me and it isn't fair to you.
I'm doing this for us. That game on September 5th? It never happened. Here's to your growing pains and lessons on the job. May your next shining moment be less of a glimpse and more an arrival.