DUNEDIN — Spring is supposed to be a time to work out the kinks and shake off the rust. Brandon Morrow didn’t get that memo. He came out of the chute looking like it was Aug. 8, 2010, all over again.
That was the day the Blue Jays came right-hander within one batter of a perfect game, settling for a one-hit, 17-strikeout shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays. Forgive the Rays if they thought they were caught in a time warp on Wednesday.
Morrow made his Grapefruit League debut against the Rays and worked three shutout innings, struck out four batters in what would become a walkoff 5-4 Toronto win, their first of the season.
Morrow allowed two singles, one of them a hit-and-run that unluckily caught the Toronto defence moving. He also pitched out of a one-out situation, with runers at first and third by striking out Joe Inglett and Nevin Ashley to end the second inning.
“When he’s on, he’s among a very small group of pitchers in the major leagues,” said Jays manager John Farrell. “The way he’s throwing early on, and the way he threw today, he’s picked up where he left off last season.
Over the course of last season, Morrow and catcher Jose Molina became joined at the hip. But on Wednesday, Morrow dealt his nasty stuff to J.P. Arencibia, without incident.
“I’m hitting my spots with the fastball and that’s the No. 1 thing I’ve been working on,” said Morrow. “My breaking pitches were effective. I wasn’t hanging them. And I threw some good changeups. So far, I’m right on track.”
Farrell said not to read anything into Arencibia being behind the plate for Morrow’s debut.
“In the last 16 starts, he’s thrown to one other catcher, one time,” said the manager. “Today, it was good to see him go out and make some pitch selections on his own, have some conversations between innings and go out and execute a game plan.
“While there’s a certain comfort zone there (with Molina), you don’t want to make it a security blanket for him, either.”