Morrow makes gradual progress toward return

Brandon Morrow. (Nathan Denette/CP)

Brandon Morrow has an idea of how soon he might return to action, but the nature of the Toronto Blue Jays right-hander’s finger tendon sheath injury makes it hard to pinpoint a timeline.

“Tentatively, real tentatively, I guess first week of August for getting back in games would seem about right,” he told Sportsnet. “But based on how I’m doing, that could move up a few days or a week or maybe be pushed back a few days or a week. It’s not so cut and dry with something like this, it’s not that common so there’s not exactly known procedures and protocols.”

For now, he’s just playing catch. He completed two sets of 25 throws from 60 feet both Friday and Saturday, throwing all fastballs both days in an attempt to build up strength in the right index finger with the torn tendon sheath.

“Everything feels good,” he said. “I’m not really stressing it too much, but it’s felt strong all the way through. I haven’t had any problems or setbacks where I’ve had to take an extra day, so I’m happy with the way it’s gone — as happy as you can be.”

Morrow will eventually mix in breaking balls once he’s able to remove the taping that now wraps around parts of his index finger when he throws (while the injury occurred on a slider, Morrow said fastballs will likely strain his finger most). The 29-year-old could start throwing breaking balls within the next week or so, and that progression will be a precursor to bullpen sessions and an eventual rehab assignment.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it wasn’t long ago that Morrow had to build his strength back with pinching exercises, light massages, stretching and using clay. Now his grip has improved to the point where he can do most everyday activities without difficulty.

“It hurt,” he said. “It was sore. I couldn’t grip anything. I couldn’t do anything with it. I could barely write with it. It’s still a little tender writing. You can tell that something happened to the finger when I grip a pen.”

For a while that meant consultations with finger specialists in Phoenix, but Morrow’s now back with the Blue Jays and focused on baseball activities again. He says it’s a relief to be back with the team, where he can embrace the daily rhythm of the game and keep his focus narrow.

“It’s easier to just focus on what you’re doing at that time than to look ahead, because you can kind of get discouraged, like ‘I’m still — at the time I injured it —  months away from being back,’” he said. “When you think about it like that, it makes it tougher. So I think just ‘hey tomorrow I can throw and work out and run and keep the focus that way,’ where if I say ‘I’m not going to be in a rehab game for another month,’ I may just get discouraged.”

When Morrow does return, the Blue Jays won’t necessarily be in need of starting pitching. Veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey aren’t going anywhere and 23-year-olds Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman have pitched tremendously. J.A. Happ’s most recent start was excellent, and his overall body of work has been solid. Plus, there’s talk that the Blue Jays could add a starter in a trade.

Morrow, who posted a 5.93 ERA in six starts before getting injured, is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, which includes a $10 million club option with a $1 million buyout for 2015. He hasn’t made a relief appearance since he was a member of the 2009 Seattle Mariners, yet in the short term it’s not completely clear how he’d fit into the rotation.

“They’ve been doing a great job,” Morrow said. “I’ll fit in where I fit in when I come back. I’m not trying to worry about that. There’ll be a need somewhere that I can fill. I’m just day by day right now. It’s too far ahead at this point to really worry about anything.”

At least Morrow is throwing again. That represents significant progress, even if he still has a long way to go before he’s back on a big league mound.

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