Jays’ Morrow makes progress with injured finger

Here's an encouraging sight for Jays fans, as Brandon Morrow throws a bullpen session, then fist bumps the catcher, pitching coach and head trainer afterwards.

TORONTO – Brandon Morrow threw off the mound Thursday for the first time since tearing a tendon sheath in his index finger May 2, an important point of progress in his painstaking rehabilitation of the injury.

The Toronto Blue Jays right-hander threw roughly 30 pitches during the session, and came away pleased. He’ll continue to throw bullpens every other day for the next while before further steps are mapped out.

“It was good,” Morrow said of the session. “I still had the tape job on my finger so it’s not completely there, but the bullpen was fine. With just this little tape here I feel pretty free with my finger so I was able to loosely go through my mechanics and feel the slope of the mound and everything was pretty good.”

Morrow remains a tantalizing wild card for the Blue Jays with the potential to provide a significant boost to the rotation or bullpen, or not return at all. To this point there have been no setbacks, even if his possible return may be taking a bit longer than expected.

“Everything has been positive,” said Morrow. “Real slow, but always going in the right direction. …

“I felt better with my command and just going through my mechanics than I thought I would (on the mound). My finger felt pretty good, so I was encouraged by it.”

Key tests for Morrow will come once he begins throwing without any tape on his finger and the tendon sheath must hold without any help.

“I’ve been over the last week doing my throwing program and then taking off the tape and throwing some more after that, and that’s felt good,” said Morrow. “It actually feels better after I take the tape off, just freeing up the finger a little bit. It feels more natural.”

HUTCHISON ADJUSTS: There were some suggestions made after Drew Hutchison’s start Monday that the right-hander might have been tipping some of his pitches.

Was he?

“I don’t know,” replied Hutchison, who went through his usual post-outing debrief on video. “I was unable to get anything over for a strike other than my fastball so that made me become predictable. When you do that you have to be even better in command of your fastball. A couple of times I missed my location and fastballs got hit.”

The Red Sox thumped him for six runs in 2.2 innings in Monday’s 14-1 thrashing of the Blue Jays.

Asked what issues he identified on video, Hutchison said, “Just the normal things within my delivery, being on time, being more fluid – the normal things I look at every start.”

NO STARTS FOR SANCHEZ: The electric debut of Aaron Sanchez had imaginations running wild Thursday and the thought of the 22-year-old right-hander pitching the way he did Wednesday over a full outing was certainly an intriguing one.

This season, however, it’s not going to happen.

“Sure, it’s tempting,” said manager John Gibbons. “But he’s got about 30 innings and we don’t want to use all that up in a week.”

Sanchez struck out two in two clean innings Wednesday, twice hitting 99 mph on the radar gun while throwing 19 of his 25 pitches for strikes. Given the innings cap, two-inning stints may not be a regular occurrence, but it’s a nice tool for Gibbons to have in the arsenal.

“It’s going to come down to winning the game if he’s the best guy to have out there,” said Gibbons. “We’ve been looking for that right-hander to complement (Dustin) McGowan, a guy who can come in and overpower you. We’re missing that with (Steve) Delabar struggling and (Sergio) Santos struggling.”

REST BENEFIT: Some time off during the all-star break seems to have re-invigorated Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera and with only two months of baseball left, working in some extra off-days to keep his everyday players fresh might pay off for manager John Gibbons.

“Ideally you’d like to get them a break, but I think the all-star break definitely helped,” he said. “When you look at August, we have a lot of off-days, there’s five in the month, so that will help. But they all need it, they all get worn down but there are certain guys you need out there, too.”

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