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On Brandon Morrow And That Other Guy

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Brandon Morrow threw a complete game shutout the other night in Tacoma, walking one and striking out two. From the files of Larry Stone, we get this quote from Wakamatsu:

"It's similar to (Ryan) Rowland-Smith when we sent him down there. Every outing seems to get better and better. He's gaining confidence. We talked about bringing him up at some point, and he's proving he's pretty close.'

Wak, perhaps getting tired of his potentially cost-effective but frustrating current rotation, is understandably eager about and encouraged by Morrow's progress in AAA. Though his first three starts proved a bit of a struggle, both physically and mentally, he has since settled in, as shown by this table.

Starts Strike% IP BB K
First 3 58.6% 13.2 12 12
Last 3 65.8% 22 3 15

Morrow has recently found his command, and what's more is that he's found it while apparently throwing a lot of changeups. One of the biggest reasons he went back to the minors in the first place was to improve his secondary stuff, and according to Ryan Divish, the change that Morrow was throwing on Friday looked terrific, both in terms of movement and location. That's wonderful. There's no other way around it.

So Morrow does seem to be responding to the assignment as hoped. He knows what he's there to do, and lately he's been able to execute his gameplan with success. If he keeps this up, then as Wak suggested, it shouldn't be long before he's back pitching with the Mariners.

There are two things I'm a little concerned about, though. The first is this, straight from Divish's article:

[The change] was so effective, he only threw five breaking balls all night – one curveball and four sliders.

It's great that Morrow's been able to develop a better feel for his change. That's been a problem of his since he first arrived, and having that pitch will be critical towards his having success against left-handed hitters. But at the same time, he wasn't sent to Tacoma to work on his change; he was sent to Tacoma to work on his offspeed game, and so far we've heard a lot about his change, a little about his slider, and practically nothing about his curveball. Now, I'll happily admit that I'm biased, and have been ever since I saw this, but Morrow has at times flashed an unbelievable curve, and I want to see more of that thing. The team even talked about it specifically when they announced Morrow's demotion. But if there have been any big developments on that front, I've yet to hear about them.

I'm ecstatic that Morrow's changeup is seemingly showing real improvement. I am. That's the second-most important pitch in his arsenal. But I want to hear about his breaking balls as well. Though Morrow could probably succeed the way he is, it's only by featuring some dynamite breaking stuff that he'll be able to reach his ceiling. More sliders and curves, please.

The second thing that gave me a little pause is that maybe the team should let Morrow get comfortable in AAA before bringing him back, as opposed to bringing him back the instant it looks like he's put himself together. Improvements are delicate; muscles and mental processes need to be conditioned, and if you call Morrow up as soon as he does what you want, you run the risk of his reverting as soon as he gets into a little trouble. However, with only about three weeks left in Tacoma's season anyway, it's not like Morrow can really hang around that much longer. Unless the Rainiers make the playoffs, Morrow can only realistically make another four starts before the end of the minor league year, so this point doesn't lead us anywhere.

Barring something unforeseen, I'd expect to see Morrow come back pretty soon. Even if he does ride out the year with Tacoma, he should be in line to pick up some starts in September. I'll be excited to see if he's changed. That said, I'll also be crossing my fingers and hoping that Morrow doesn't forget everything he's learned, and that the coaching staff keeps a close eye on him and lets him know there's still more work to do. Morrow, from all indications, will be returning from AAA as a better starting pitcher. He will not, however, be returning as a finished product. Here's to there being still more steps forward.

Changing direction and going back to the original article, Stone also had this to say on another pitcher whose name you may recognize:

Carlos Silva had another bullpen session today, throwing 35 pitches. Wakamatsu said it went well. Silva will be stretched out to 45 pitches next time, followed by a simulated game. The goal is to get him some game action before the season is over.

Can you believe it's only been three months since Silva first disappeared? That feels like eons ago. It's a funny thing about time, though - after so many weeks have gone by, I'm almost ready to give Silva another chance. I wanted nothing to do with him anymore back when he was still throwing meaningful pitches, but since learning the extent of his injuries, I've pretty much forgiven him for his 2009 numbers, and the more I look at his stats from 2008, the more I think there may yet be some salvage potential. Not as a #2 or #3 starter or anything, but as a back-of-the-rotation guy or even as a long reliever, I feel like a healthy Silva may not be totally worthless.

If, of course, he can come back looking healthy, which is in no way guaranteed. But with the team on the hook for two more years and a lot more money, they're pretty much obligated to give Silva another opportunity or three to show what he can do. And I think it would be worth finding out if the consistent solid contact that plagued him in 2008 was sustainable or an anomaly. Over the course of his Minnesota career, Silva was an average-ish starting pitcher. If he can get back to looking more like that and less like the Mariner we all love to hate, then perhaps this team wouldn't have to bite the $25m bullet.

Our starting pitcher depth chart is really weird.