The Blue Jays have spent September taking stock - and it isn’t just about the kids.
Yes, they’ve been taking a hard look at some top prospects but that’s not where the evaluation begins and ends.
Nobody in the organization is terribly pleased with the state of the starting rotation, and that includes the body of work that represents Brandon Morrow’s inconsistent season.
The most striking aspect of Morrow’s four-hit, eight-inning 3-0 shutout of the New York Yankees Sunday was that nobody understood its importance more than Morrow himself.
“I think it was my best game this year and something I can use as a starting point to finish strong the rest of the year,” said Morrow who came into this game with a 1-6 record and a 6.80 ERA in his most recent eight starts. Sunday he was consistently ahead in the count against the patient Yankee hitters, needing 107 pitches to get his 24 outs.
“I went out very aggressive in my bullpen warming up and I told myself I was just going to give everything I have on every pitch. I went as hard as I could for as long as I could.
“When I get in trouble it’s when I leave the ball up instead of finishing it off.”
Manager John Farrell said he could sense a heightened intensity on Morrow’s part and felt it was a key for him against the Yankees.
“The one thing he has attempted to do is pitch a little more under control and not reach back for his best velocity all the time,” said Farrell. “He went out today with a little more determination from the first pitch on, so when he mislocated a pitch on the plate, it was a foul ball rather than one that got squared up. He was able to sustain that through his entire outing today.”
Morrow is a key for the Blue Jay rotation looking toward 2012. He has the potential to be a dominant pitcher in a division populated by dominant pitchers. If he can consistently pitch at that level, he has Cy Young potential, as evidenced by the poor contact the Yankees made Sunday.
Adam Lind gave Morrow all the offence that was needed. In the lineup as the DH, he belted a pair of solo home runs in the second and fourth innings. Eric Thames added the third run in the fifth with a sacrifice fly off starter and loser Freddy Garcia.
“It was nice to give Brandon a couple of runs early because all he needed was one today,” said Lind. “He has the potential to be unhittable every time he goes to the mound. When he has that kind of stuff he’s one of the best pitchers in the big leagues.”
Prompted by a question from a Yankee beat writer, John Farrell made his case for Jose Bautista as American League MVP Sunday.
“He has set the bar extremely high,” said Farrell. “As good as his year was last year, he’s improved in a lot of ways. Look at the average, the on-base percentage, the total number of walks. What we’ve seen inside of individual games, where he has made adjustments from at bat to at-bat, that goes back to what we’re privy to: the intelligence and awareness inside the game, above and beyond the numbers.
“You look at the intangibles, his willingness to change positions, his willingness to put the team ahead of himself. Those are things we’re privy to day in and day out ... how players gravitate to him and the confidence he naturally shows in our clubhouse, our dugout and on the field. He’s got all the characteristics that you’re looking for in a leader on the field.
Bautista would likely be the favourite if the Jays were a playoff team or at least in the playoff conversation. But the penchant has been to favour players whose teams are October-bound.
“A playoff team is an entire roster,” said Farrell. “The counter argument is that if those players in the final conversation weren’t on their given teams, would their status (as playoff teams) be any different? That’s the great debate.
“All we can talk about as far as the Blue Jays go is how much he means to us and he’s our most valuable player.
Farrell related a private conversation between himself and Bautista from last week’s two-game series in Boston.
“In the third inning of the first game, Jose came to me, knowing that ballpark is a tough one to play in. He said ‘I’ll go into centre field if you need me to and put Adam (Loewen) back in right field. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate but I’m willing to do that right now.’
“Those are the kinds of things you don’t measure, you don’t see. He’s about the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back. I’ve been around a lot of players and he might be the best I’ve ever been around.
“He’s our most valuable player and if I had a vote, I’m voting for him as most valuable player in the American League.”