TORONTO - Late last season, Pat Hentgen was asked about his first year as the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen coach.
Hentgen spoke of the starters he liked (all of them), the relievers he liked (all of them) and the prospects he liked (all of them).
Well then, I ask, trying to get Hentgen to split hairs on pitchers: Who would you be happiest having your 16-year-old daughter marry when she grows up?
“Brandon Morrow,” Hentgen said.
High praise from a father of three daughters and a former Cy Young Award winner.
Avoiding salary arbitration, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos completed a three-year deal with Morrow’s agent Joel Wolfe Tuesday, signing the pitcher to a three-year, $20 million (U.S.) deal.
Morrow, 27, will earn $4 million this season and $8 million the next two years. The deal includes a $10 million club option for 2015, which includes a $1 million buyout.
“Ricky Romero was fun to watch on the mound, he was the man,” said Hentgen, the former bullpen coach from Shelby Township, Mich.
“I was always impressed with Brandon off the field or in the clubhouse, he was always on an even keel, an extreme even keel. He was a guy who had things in perspective, not like some young guys when I played.
“Brandon was the same guy every day no matter what happened. He was one of the most even-keeled guys we had. He had things in perspective. He was a steady Eddie.”
Now steady Eddie, the former No. 1 pick of the Seattle Mariners acquired two days before Christmas in 2009 by the Jays for reliever Brandon League and outfielder Johermyn Chavez, has security.
“The longer I’m in the game, the more I realize when you are going to extend multi-year contracts and guarantee players significant amounts of money, you had better believe in the players as a human being,” Anthopoulos said at a Rogers Centre press conference.
“You can check off all the boxes with Brandon: a leader, work ethic, character, he’s someone for our young players to look at, like Ricky Romero and Jose Bautista.”
Oh, and Morrow wants to be nastier next season.
“There’s a certain level of a--hole you need to be to really succeed,” said Morrow, who wed his wife Lily in 2010 (thus taking him off the market for the Hentgen daughters). “You look at the best athletes, they all got a little bit of that in them.”
Morrow had good days and bad starts, but finished strong after a 10-start skid in which he went 31/3, seven, 72/3, seven, six, 42/3, 51/3, six, 41/3 and 51/3 innings. The Jays lost seven of his 10 starts as he was 2-7 with a 6.83 ERA.
He had a multi-year drive with eight scoreless against the New York Yankees and seven facing the Tampa Bay Rays and allowed two runs in six innings against the White Sox in his final outing of the season. The Jays won all three of Morrow’s final starts as he went 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA.
When Seattle chose Morrow fifth overall in North America, they bypassed local product Tim Lincecum of nearby Bellevue, Wash.
As Morrow was in and out of the M’s rotation in 2007-08 seasons, the Seattle media constantly asked, “Why didn’t you draft Lincecum?”
Hours after Morrow and the Jays agreed to the three-year deal (average annual salary: $7 million, counting the buyout), the San Francisco Giants signed Lincecum to a two-year $40.5 million (average annual salary: $20.25 million).
Anthopoulos told Morrow in mid-November, when Morrow was in town for the unveiling of the Jays’ new logo, he wanted to talk long-term. Both Wolfe and Anthopoulos were in Milwaukee for the GMs’ meetings, as well as Dallas at the winter meetings, and talks proceeded after the two sides exchanged numbers for arbitration.
Now steady Eddie has security as he tries to transform into nasty Eddie.