What do you do for encore?
Just how do you top Opening Day’s record-setting marathon — a 7-4 Jays win?
First of all, if you happen to be the Blue Jays and Indians, after a 16-inning ordeal, you get a day off.
If you happen to be Brandon Morrow, you plan to go out and pitch deep into Saturday’s game, give the bullpen a rest.
One of the goals of the Blue Jays rotation this season was to attempt to work deep into each and every game with seven innings being the goal.
Ricky Romero didn’t achieve that mark in the opener as thanks to a dreadful second inning where he gave up four runs on three hits and a couple of walks — he required 43 pitches to get through the inning.
So after five innings and 96 pitches, Romero’s day was done.
Now it’s Morrow’s turn — and for fans of the Blue Jays they will see a different pitcher this year.
The right-hander still has the high-octane arm but he has discovered how to harness it. Instead of pounding his heater in at 95-97, he lives at 92-93 and has greater control.
He also spent the spring training mastering his secondary stuff and in the majority of his spring starts he was developing his curveball and new grip changeup.
The results were spectacular as in five starts against major-league opponents, Morrow allowed just one earned run in 17 1/3 innings for a 0.52 ERA.
He allowed just 10 hits and the one run came on a solo homer. Overall he held the opposition to a .167 average.
Morrow credits his renaissance as a pitcher to the light bulb being turned on in his head near the end of the 2011 season.
“I think we had some discussions throughout last season that started leading into that,” Morrow said Thursday of the beginning of his development.
“Towards the end of the year I started to realize my downfalls. I mean you can be told that (needs better secondary stuff), you can be told all those things but until you figure it out for yourself, it’s not going to make a difference.
“Anybody can tell you that you should change speeds, throw more this, throw more that. But until you figure it out for yourself, there is not much you can do about it.”
Once he figured out the basic facts of pitching, he committed to it, didn’t simply pay it lip service.
“I think it’s going to make a big difference this season,” he said.
“I put a big emphasis on changing speeds and accepting that philosophy gap with my changeup and curveball and I think those things are going to help me tremendously.”
The challenge for Morrow to change his approach from going hard-hard and being a strictly fastball-slider pitcher to a pitcher that has four quality pitches was more mental than physical or mechanical.
It was his ability to whistle the ball by batters that got him drafted and into the big leagues — and it is often for power pitchers to discover that less is truly more.
“I think a lot of it (reluctance to change) last year had to do with having a lot of success with the fastball and slider in the last half of 2010 and then carrying that over and then I worked on my strong points a little bit too much,” he said of the hard-hard trap.
“Then when I needed those off-speed pitches during the season, they really weren’t there for me.”
But now he has them in his arsenal and he says there isn’t any hesitancy of using them right out of the gate.
“I feel good, I’m ready to go,” he said.
“In spring training I definitely accomplished what I set out to do which was work on those other pitches. I’m excited about carrying it into the season and continue the mix of pitches that I have and try to keep guys off balance, to pitch a little bit more.
“I find myself thinking through the at-bats a lot more. How I want to set up my slider and fastball, instead of just switching back and forth between the two, but to give different looks. I’ve gotten really excited about all those ground balls and double plays I had (in spring).”
But that’s not to say that he still doesn’t have that extra four-to-five miles an hour in the tank when he needs the big strikeout.
“Yeah, I really haven’t tried to blow it by a lot of guys yet,” he said. “But I’m confident. I know it will be there when I need it to be.”
Everyone in the Jays’ camp expects a big year out of Morrow. None more than the pitcher himself.
Rajai’s April fool’s play
CLEVELAND — Even though it was Opening Day and there are 161 games to go, Blue Jays reserve outfielder Rajai Davis would seem to have a lock on the most bonehead at-bat of the season.
It occurred in the 15th inning with none out and runners on first and second.
Davis, a good bunter, squared around and committed two cardinal sins in the at-bat.
First, he popped the bunt into the air right towards Cleveland’s charging third baseman Jack Hannahan.
Second, and this was inexcusable, he remained in the batter’s box as if transfixed and watched what was happening.
Hannahan made the right play by allowing the ball to drop to the turf. Once he picked it up he wheeled and fired to second for the force. At this point Davis realized he had goofed and started up the line but was doubled off easily.
Afterwards in the glow of victory, manager John Farrell brushed the goof up aside.
“Hannahan did a great job and he did what you instruct every infielder to do,” Farrell said. “You give the impression you’re going to catch it and let it drop. I think Rajai thought he was going to catch it and kind of backed off instead of running it out and it ended up being a double play.”