Morrow feeling good; Eveland impresses
Both could land in rotation, though latter may go to 'pen
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The manner in which Brandon Morrow has downplayed his spring shoulder issue makes a trip to the disabled list seem like the last thing anyone should expect. The decision will ultimately be left to the Blue Jays, but Morrow believes he can be ready for Opening Day.
On Monday, Morrow worked through a 52-pitch simulated game at Toronto's Minor League complex and, as he expected, the pitcher came away feeling fine. At Dunedin Stadium, Dana Eveland was stellar in a start against the Tigers in an effort to force his way onto the Jays' pitching staff.
A healthy Morrow could mean Eveland's best shot is at a job in the bullpen, though the rotation picture still remains cloudy with Opening Day only a week away. As far as Morrow is concerned, health is no longer an issue.
"It's just a sore shoulder," Morrow said. "If you look in the paper, there's 20 guys with it. Most of those guys will probably be on their club to start Opening Day. They're just conservative during spring, and that's what we were."
The fatigued shoulder is something that Morrow said he has dealt with during previous Spring Trainings. In the past, the right-hander might have even continued to pitch with the mild soreness. This year with the Jays, who acquired Morrow from the Mariners in a December trade, the pitcher decided it was better not to risk facing a serious setback.
Morrow describes the shoulder problem as a "getting-over-the-hill" issue.
"I seem to encounter [it] in the middle of spring," he said. "That's what it was. I hit that and got through it and now I feel good now. I feel like I'll be fine."
Morrow pulled himself out of a start on March 19, took a few days off to let his shoulder calm down and was back on a mound for a bullpen session on Friday. After that workout, Morrow was confident that Monday's simulated game would not involve any lingering problems. The righty faced 14 batters and recorded 12 outs, finishing with one hit allowed, one walk issued and four strikeouts.
"I felt great. I could've kept going," Morrow said. "I felt really good. Mechanically, I felt on tempo. The ball was coming out well. I threw all my pitches well. It was a good outing, and I felt great."
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Barring any setbacks, the next step would be for Morrow to start on Saturday, when the Blue Jays face the Astros in an exhibition at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Morrow would be down to log 75-80 pitches if Toronto gives him the go-ahead to pitch in the big league game, a move that would be a clear sign that a trip to the 15-day DL is highly unlikely.
Another option could be to hand the Saturday start to Eveland, whose six shutout innings against the Tigers on Monday may have won him a spot on the Opening Day roster in some capacity. Eveland -- acquired from the A's in exchange for cash or a player to be named later in early February -- has an outside shot at a rotation job and is also in the mix as a reliever.
"He's pitched well enough to pitch on this club," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "We just want to wait and see where we're going to put him, if he's going to be a starter or if he's going to be someone that you bring out of the bullpen."
Against Detroit on Monday, the 26-year-old Eveland allowed four hits and finished with eight strikeouts and one walk in a 92-pitch effort. Overall this spring, the left-hander has logged a team-high 22 innings, in which he has compiled 19 strikeouts and six walks with a 1.23 ERA. It's the type of showing Eveland knew he had to have this spring in order to open some eyes.
"I knew I wasn't coming into camp with anything handed to me," Eveland said. "I definitely busted my butt, and I think I have my head on straight this year, which was a big difference from last year. I kind of went into camp a little cocky and overconfident and obviously paid for it last year. I know how good of a pitcher I can be, but I know I have to work."
Last season, Eveland went 8-6 with a 4.94 ERA over 21 starts with Triple-A Sacramento and 2-4 with a 7.16 ERA in 13 appearances (nine starts) with Oakland. That showing came one year after Eveland finished 9-9 with a 4.34 ERA in 29 starts as a member of the A's rotation. Eveland said the struggles he experienced in 2009 ended up serving as a blessing in disguise.
Eveland realized that he needed to begin focusing more on location than trying to simply overpower hitters. The lefty's velocity has diminished over the past few years, forcing him to alter his approach to pitching. Over the winter, Eveland said he concentrated on improving his sinker, which would help give him a solid five-pitch arsenal.
So far, the results this spring have been strong, and Monday's outing provided a perfect example.
|"He's pitched well enough to pitch on this club. We just want to wait and see where we're going to put him, if he's going to be a starter or if he's going to be someone that you bring out of the bullpen."|
|-- Cito Gaston, on Dana Eveland|
"It was one of those days when I kind of had everything going for me," Eveland said. "Ten percent of your starts, maybe you might have everything. I throw five pitches just for that reason, because I know I'm not going to have all of them. On a good day, you generally have three. Today, I had five. It makes it a little easier to get outs when you're throwing a little bit of everything at them."
That showing -- potentially Eveland's last outing of the spring -- might ultimately convince the Blue Jays to include him on the Opening Day roster. Eveland said he is willing to accept a job within Toronto's bullpen, but the club is definitely taking a long, hard look at him as an option for the rotation.
Gaston noted that the only locks for the rotation are Opening Day starter Shaun Marcum and left-hander Ricky Romero. Marc Rzepczynski, Brett Cecil, Brian Tallet, Morrow and Eveland are in the mix for the final three vacancies. Gaston has maintained all spring that Tallet would likely be on the starting staff, but said Monday there's a chance that the lefty could wind up in the bullpen.
Complicating things even further is the fact that Gaston has not ruled out a scenario in which Rzepczynski and Cecil both start the year with Triple-A Las Vegas.
"Anthing's possible," Gaston said on Friday.
Eveland, who is out of options, has stopped trying to figure out where he falls in the competition.
"Honestly, I have no clue," he said with a smile. "I'm not even trying to guess anymore. We still have, I don't know, 17 pitchers here in camp or something like that. I'm just going to take the ball when they let me have it, throw my best and hopefully things will work out for me.
"If not, I might have to end up somewhere else. Who knows?"
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.