Jays Notebook: Morrow misses start, Ruiz keeps battling
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Potentially disturbing news for the Jays when projected No. 3 starter Brandon Morrow was shut down while warming up for his Friday start against the Astros due to soreness in his right shoulder. Morrow has struggled this spring after being acquired from the Mariners in a trade for reliever Brandon League. In two starts, Morrow has a 7.20 ERA allowing four runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. The only time Morrow has been on the disabled list in his pro career was last April with right triceps tendinitis.
"It bothered me a little bit on Wednesday, the day after my bullpen day," Morrow said. "It felt fine (Thursday) playing catch. When I tried to turn it up today it was just bugging me. I shut it down early, just precautionary to try not to turn this into a – if I went out there and threw my four innings it might turn into a week-and-a-half two week thing instead of a two or three day thing."
"It's been a spring training thing in the past and I think the reason it may have popped up at the beginning of the year last year was because I didn't have much spring training, getting the flu. I only threw four innings last spring training. It's kind of that getting over the hill thing.
Morrow will receive treatment in the next several days and be re-evaluated for his next start. Non-roster pitcher Steven Register received the start in Morrow's place.
"We weren't going to take any chances with him," manager Cito Gaston said. "We think he's going to be a big part of this organization. When I was walking out, (pitching coach Bruce Walton) came up and told me about it and I said that was the right thing to do."
The Astros scored two runs off Register for a 2-0 shutout win, dropping the Jays' spring mark to 8-6. The Jays continue the Grapefruit League schedule Saturday in Dunedin. Lefthander Marc Rzepczynski will face righty Derek Lowe for the Braves.
HITS: Jeremy Reed, vying for a spot on the bench or as a starter in right field until Edwin Encarnacion returns to third base, was 2-for-3, including a perfect bunt on the grass towards third base against Pedro Feliz ,who was playing deep, raising his average to .394. He stole two bases... Sean Ochinko, seeing his first ever action in Grapefruit League play, played third base and recorded two hits including a double... The Jays' bullpen pitched five shutout innings, allowing one hit.
MISSES: Centre fielder Joey Gathright continued to struggle offensively, going hitless in four at-bats including a double play grounder, but he made superb catches in each of the alleys in right and left-centre fields... The Jays were shut out for the first time this spring although the lineup they sent over to Kissimmee did not have one starter.
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Righthander Dustin McGowan faced hitters in an opposing uniform for the first time in 619 days on Friday, shutting out a Pirates Triple-A team over 1-2/3 innings, allowing two hits and two walks with a strikeout. His last appearance was July 8, 2008 against the Orioles.
"The most important thing is that I get healthy and stay healthy," McGowan told MLB.com. "It doesn't make sense to try to get healthy to start the season and then get hurt again. You've got to get healthy where you can stay at and compete at 100 percent and then not worry about getting hurt."
McGowan threw just 18 strikes among his 36 pitches and is not expected to be ready for Opening Day. He can remain at extended spring training and pitch in those games. When he is ready to join a minor-league affiliate, he can be sent on a rehab-option that can last 30 days.
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With first-baseman Brian Dopirak being optioned to AAA-Las Vegas on Thursday, it virtually assured last year's Vegas player-of-the-year Randy Ruiz a spot on the Jays' opening day roster. The likeable 32-year-old was not celebrating the news.
"I love Brian, he's a great guy, a great teammate" Ruiz said. "I respect him. I love the way he goes about the game. To me it wasn't a competition. It was more go out there, have fun, put no pressure and whatever happens happens."
Ruiz isn't guaranteed a spot and as he points out there's a long way to go in spring training, but he's also come a long way in his career. He's far from an overnight sensation, at 32-years-old still looking for his first opening day roster. He sees a lot of himself in the struggles his short-term Vegas teammate Dopirak is going through at 26-years-old.
"You never give up, like my story from 11 years," Ruiz said. "I battled, I battled, I battled, I stayed with it, I never quit. And now I'm here and have an opportunity to show people what I can do. Now I'm at the major-league level, somewhere I've always wanted to be."
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There were other scratches than Brandon Morrow from Friday's game at Osceola County Stadium. Scratched from the starting lineup for the Astros were pitcher Bud Norris with stomach flu and centre fielder Michael Bourn with a minor oblique strain. Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos was scheduled to make the trip to see the Jays and Astros but decided not to go because of a bout with the flu.
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The Jays gave a third straight day off to third base coach Brian Butterfield. Manning third for the Jays against the Astros was Omar Malave. Taking over from Malave at first base was Las Vegas manager Dan Rohn.