Blue Jays’ Morrow experiencing stiffness in neck

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons joins Jeff Blair and Dirk Hayhurst on Baseball Central to discuss the recent tweet from third baseman Brett Lawrie and the mental state of pitcher Ricky Romero.

BOSTON – Pessimism grew over Brandon Morrow’s chances of starting Sunday because of lingering neck stiffness after the Toronto Blue Jays right-hander stayed back in Florida to be re-examined Friday.

Morrow's troubles began Tuesday when he tweaked something in his back during his bullpen session and the spasm moved up to his neck, the primary issue at this point, later that night as he went to bed. The Blue Jays then pushed his scheduled start Friday back two days thinking that would do the trick.

While he expressed optimism Thursday - "Sunday is looking pretty good," he said in a brief interview - he didn't accompany the Blue Jays to Boston on the team flight after a 5-4, 10-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The plan was to wait things out until the very end before making a call, although the sense from some around the team was that it didn't look good for him to be ready Sunday.

"We hope he's ready," said manager John Gibbons, who struck a more optimistic tone. "Until Sunday gets here we won't know for sure but we think he'll make it."

The options if he can't are far from ideal.

Justin Germano would be on his throw day for triple-A Buffalo, and is the only real choice from the Bisons since Ricky Romero, who pitches Saturday, must spend at least 10 days in the minors unless someone is placed on the disabled list.

There are two possibilities at double-A New Hampshire, with Chad Jenkins slated to pitch Saturday and Sean Nolin - whom GM Alex Anthopoulos watched pitch Tuesday - scheduled for Sunday. Both have made just one start this season after coming off the DL and the Blue Jays may opt for caution.

Another option could be starting one of Brett Cecil, Brad Lincoln and/or Esmil Rogers and piggybacking the others on him, but that would depend on how much action they see Friday and Saturday.

Help is unlikely to come from outside the organization, as any available arm gets gobbled up. For example, Aaron Laffey, who elected free agency after being designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on April 27, signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and is pitching at triple-A Albuquerque.

"We're looking around to see the way we might go," Gibbons said. "(Anthopoulos) never sleeps, he's always looking for different ways to make the team better so I'm sure he's looking that route as well. But it's not easy to do, especially this time of year, teams don't want to give up players because most of them still think they have a shot as well. I would be very surprised if we ended up going that route if (Morrow) couldn't pitch Sunday."