PITTSBURGH – The Toronto Blue Jays have lost starter Brandon Morrow until at July to a torn tendon sheath where his index finger meets his right hand, and if rehabilitation doesn’t work the right-hander will need season-ending surgery.
Word on the severity of his injury came after yet another bullpen implosion Saturday in an 8-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and provided another blow to a team manager John Gibbons described as “shell-shocked.”
Morrow was placed on the 60-day disabled list and top prospect Marcus Stroman was summoned from triple-A Buffalo with a corresponding roster move due Sunday morning, capping a flurry of activity that also included J.A. Happ’s return to the rotation, Sergio Santos’ demotion from the closer’s role, and Chad Jenkins’ recall to the big-leagues.
Gibbons hinted at changes in the bullpen after Friday’s 6-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates during which Santos surrendered two ninth-inning home runs, but the news on Morrow came as a surprise.
The right-hander, who allowed three runs on 11 hits and a walk over five innings Friday, travelled home to Arizona on Saturday to visit his personal doctor for an MRI. He felt a pop in his hand during his final inning of work.
The immediate upshot of his absence is “that six-man thing, See you later,” according to Gibbons, with Happ starting Monday and everyone else sliding into place on their normal rest.
The bullpen shuffle that pushed down the struggling Santos – “maybe just take the pressure off him now, it doesn’t take long and he’s right back to what he was,” said Gibbons – means the Blue Jays will go with a closer by committee led by Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup, and perhaps also Steve Delabar at times.
The Blue Jays don’t want to name anyone to the role because Cecil and Loup could be called upon for multiple innings, or if there’s a key lefty hitter up in the seventh and eighth, they may be used there.
How will Gibbons prepare his guys?
“The situation we’re in I just tell them to be ready anytime,” said Gibbons. “I told Sergio he could go in anywhere in the sixth, seventh or eighth inning. They’ve got to get ready when we start getting into the middle of the game. It’s really tough to narrow it down.”
Closer Casey Janssen is leaving for a rehab assignment Sunday and is expected to pitch for double-A New Hampshire on Monday. The initial projections were for four or five outings, but asked if that could be sped up, Gibbons replied: “Well, we’re going to monitor him. We’ve got to see how he looks after a couple of them, anyway. The big thing you look for is what his velocity looks like, does he need to build up more, things like that.”
Stroman threw six inning of no-hit, one-walk ball in his last start at Buffalo on Tuesday, striking out 10 batters before being pulled at 80 pitches. In 26.2 innings over five starts, he posted a 1.69 ERA, allowed only 22 hits while striking out 36 batters.
“Those were definitely the best of the innings I’ve caught him down there,” said catcher Erik Kratz, recalled Friday. “I would have liked to see him continue and go more than 80 pitches but he did good, really good. There have been games where he’s gotten away with some hanging pitches but that game he didn’t make many mistakes, he really didn’t.”