Griffin: Blue Jays notes Game 11
DUNEDIN, FLA.-The Jays on Monday ran their spring record to 8-2-1 in Grapefruit League play with a 4-1 victory over the Orioles at the park formerly known as Grant Field.
Brandon Morrow threw 23 pitches over three innings, pounding the zone with 17 strikes. He allowed a leadoff single to right and struck out two. It was his second spring start.
“That's probably my lowest pitch count for three innings, all-time," Morrow said. "That comes with change of speed, getting guys out in front, poor contact, all that. I plan to continue to use that and judging by today get some quicker innings, quicker outs and overall better results, get deeper into games.
“I left a couple of strikeouts out there probably. Could have used my slider in a couple of situations, but I haven't started to use that yet. Once I do, there'll be a few more strikeouts. It's something that needed to be done. Obviously I was getting it done striking guys out but four-and-a-half innings per start the last two years isn't what you want out of your No., 2 starter, obviously. I don't care about anything other than that."
Obviously Morrow was exagerrating downward the length of his average start, but manager John Farrell is exactly on board with all the same positive Morrow has seen.
“Impressed with both his curveball and his changeup," Farrell began. "The curveball has been a point of emphasis for him to get more familiar with the use and command of it. He's done it now in the last two outings that he's pitched.
"Equal to all that is is his unloading time with men on base. Last year, at times, he'd try to get too quick. His delivery would come apart at times and he wouldn't be able to command a baseball as consistently. This is two consecutive outings where he's been very much under control, like I said, the emphassis being on his curveball. His ability to throttle hitters back and forth, he's not going to get them on a fastball yet, but if he can get a feel for those secondary pitches, it's going to make his fastball thast much more effective."
Morrow was followed by Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen, Drew Hutchison and Deck McGuire, with Hutchison allowing the only run.
“We threw strikes all game long," Farrell said. "It's the fundamentals of pitching. The more you can continue to maintain that, that's what we're talking about in getting more quality innings from your rotation. That's the first place to start."
One interrogator kidded Farrell about the tough decisions upcoming since 15 of his Jays' pitchers still maintain a 0.00 ERA in Grapefruit League action after the first 11 games.
“Well, spring training is one part of the evaluation, as you know," Farrell said. "More than anything, what we've seen in more games than not is guys are attacking the strike zone, they're working ahead and you look at the guys that we project in that grouping of seven starters that are in competition, they're doing just that. They're pitching to contact and they're attacking the strike zone. It's something that we said at the outset that we're trying to create more of a mindset of and so far they're demonstrating that."
The Jays only managed four hits, with the key blow being Omar Vizquel's bases-loaded single to build the lead to 3-0 after Travis Snider had singled off the right field fence, held to one base because of Colby Rasmus' indecision and shoddy baserunning ahead of him.
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The 22-year-old Hutchison is highly regarded, but made a couple of mistakes in his one inning of work on Monday vs. the O's that cost him a run. The non-roster righthander is surely in that top dozen starters in the organization needed to be pinpointed heading into the season. The Jays have averaged 12 starters per year each of the past three seasons. They have a plan for the Lakeland, Florida native.
“Our goal for him is to keep him late enough in camp so when hitters really start to hone in getting prepared for the regular season, he's going to face some hitters during that time and gain valuable experience," Farrell said, suggesting there is no chance that he breaks camp as the fifth starter for the Jays.
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McGuire, 22, a product of Georgia Tech, is another of those talented young Jays' starters that would have to be ranked in the Top 12 pecking order heading into the regular season. He was the club's No. 1 pick in the June 2010 draft and is happier with his second training camp as an invited player than he was in his first.
“It's just a chance to keep getting better, learn from some of the best players in the world and just keep trying to get better every day and grow to my full potential as quickly as possible," McGuire said. “Obviously your goal is to get to the big leagues as quickly as you can, but I'm just going to keep trying to get better every fifth day and work my tail off in between and try and help the big club whenever they need me.
“That learning curve last year was pretty steep. I was kind of a deer in the headlights all of spring training. This year, I've played with some of the guys. I've met some of the older guys. It's just given me a chance to really settle in, relax a little bit and really focus on getting better. I'm really able to talk to some of those older guys, where last year I was a little bit too nervous."
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There was news on a couple of other Jays' starting candidates. First of all, Kyle Drabek, whose start was rained out after one inning on Sunday in Orlando, was not happy to see that his name was listed for another long bus ride, this to Kissimmee on Wednesday. But that was not a change, since he did face the Braves an inning, then threw 25 more pitches in the bullpen to complete his workday.
“What we've had Kyle on is an every fourth day schedule," Farrell said. "That will be the case again. We'll look to get him three innings his next time out. But even though it was only one inning of work he was able to take some of the things he was working on into the game. And more than anything, I know it was one inning, but it was an efficient inning and the use of his sinker is becoming a true weapon for him."
There has been a slight change of plan for Dustin McGowan as his exhilirating ride back to the major leagues continues this spring. Originally the recovering righthander was to pitch three innings at minor-league camp on Wednesday, but instead he will take the long bus ride to Kissimmee and start against the Astros.