Morrow Shows Big Promise In Debut

Contributor Eric Yang looks at Brandon Morrow's debut as a starter for the Mariners and says that fans should be very excited about what could be a dominant front end of the pitching rotation in 2009.

It was not too long ago when Brandon Morrow was drafted third overall by the Seattle Mariners in 2006. Since his arrival, he has been used in various roles with the big league club as well as in the minors. He pitched in the minors the season he got drafted and threw as a starter and as a reliever. In college at Cal, he was a starter who threw a hard fastball with good secondary pitches. He was called the best arm in the draft, period.

He made his minor league debut the same year he was drafted . Then, he shocked the baseball world when he got called up to head north to Seattle after spring training in 2007. However, it was not as a starter, it was as a reliever. His role: to set up J.J. Putz. Throughout the 2007 season, he dazzled and did his job consistently when called upon. His role was to be a reliever and that's what he did for a year and a half.

This year, the Mariners finally did the right thing and made him a starter. He was sent down to Venezuela to pitch in winter ball last year. This helped him prepare to be a starter for the 2008 season. However, with the signing of Carlos Silva and the trade for Erik Bedard, there was no room for Morrow in the starting rotation so he was sent to AA to continue his conversion to starter.

But we were barely a few weeks into the season when he was called back to Seattle, once again in a relieving role. It was not too long before he took the league by storm throwing even harder than when he first got called up, and with better control. His fastball was even clocked at 100 MPH a few times.

This season was supposed to be an opportunity for the Mariners to compete for the AL West title. Instead, the M's are heading towards a 100-loss season and the worst record in baseball. What a turnaround from last season's 88-win performance.

With the season lost, Morrow was finally sent down to AAA Tacoma to complete his conversion to starter once and for all. This time it was for real, as he was called up to start September 5th against the New York Yankees. Facing a lineup with stars like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, Morrow was completely dominant.

On a pitch count going into the game, it was soon clear that Jim Riggelman would have to throw that notion out the window. Morrow shined as much as Seattle's rain is consistent. He pitched 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball before it was broken up by Wilson Betemit's pinch-hit double in the 8th inning. His 106-pitch maste piece gave Mariner fans something to look forward to for the rest of this season and, more importantly, in 2009.

Morrow exhibited great control on all his pitches, including the changeup he had worked hard on in the minors. His fastball had great life, and his curve/slider was down and dropped off the table. There is no way he can do this every time, but if he can show any kind of consistency he will be a viable option in the front of the rotation with Felix Hernandez and Bedard.

There also has always been a battle with fans thinking the M's should have drafted Tim Lincecum, who pitched for our hometown Washington Huskies. When you compare each of them we may just have gotten the better pitcher. Lincecum has bee great, and only time will tell, but if the first start is any indication on how it's going to be, Mariner fans will be very happy with the decision the team made to draft Morrow.

As good as Morrow is now, he can and should get better and that's a scary thing for this league. Mariners nation will watch and wait as we see something special right in our own backyard. This might be the most exciting moment for M's fans since Felix debuted in 2005.

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