Jays’ Norris impresses with AA on hand

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, right, talks with pitching coach Pete Walker. (Nathan Denette/CP)

TORONTO – Named to the United States roster for the upcoming Futures Game, the subject of trade rumours, Daniel Norris is suddenly right in the middle of things and the top Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect had a special guest watching his second outing at double-A New Hampshire on Tuesday night.

Alex Anthopoulos, currently on an evaluation tour of the club’s farm teams, was in Portland, Me., to watch the left-hander, who struck out 10 and allowed one run over 5.2 innings on three hits and three walks in a 5-1 win over the Sea Dogs.

Norris will be joined in the Futures Game prospect showcase by single-A Dunedin outfielder Dalton Pompey, who will represent Canada on the World Team. Those two, along with triple-A Buffalo right-hander Aaron Sanchez, were mentioned in a story by Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com, indicating the Chicago Cubs would want all three in a deal for starter Jeff Samardzija.

The Cubs are obviously trying to set the market for the right-hander and there’s no chance the Blue Jays trade all three for a pitcher with only a year-plus of control. The belief is Samardzija won’t sign a contract extension with any team since he is intent on hitting free agency after the 2015 season, an issue that may deter some clubs from going all out to get him.

The Blue Jays have long coveted Samardzija, making attempts to acquire him in each of the past two off-seasons, but haven’t been able to line up with the Cubs. Expect them to continue scouting him and all other available players heavily ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

The Blue Jays’ outlook on acquiring pitching help may in some ways hinge on how well Brandon Morrow’s body scars over the small strip of tissue that helps hold the tendon in his right index finger in place.

The right-hander is making slow progress in his recovery from a torn tendon sheath, specifically the A2 pulley, making 25 throws at 60 feet Tuesday for the first time since his injury last month. It will be a slow and steady build-up from there for Morrow, who is optimistic about his chances of pitching again this year.

“There’s no doubt that if it continues the way it has been that I’ll pitch again this year,” he said. “I can’t put a date on it. They just put together a calendar for me, which I haven’t even seen. This is my fifth day throwing so it’s too early to say.”

Surgery is the secondary option for repairing such an injury, and Morrow intends to play out the rehabilitation process for as long as he can before going down that road. The expectation is that much like when the body suffers a cut it scabs over the wound while the skin works to reconnect, the torn pulley will do the same thing over top the tendon.

Rushing it could reset the entire process, so Morrow is wearing a makeshift brace on his finger created by his therapist using Velcro straps and the cover of a baseball when he throws, which he started doing only last week.

Once fully healed, the expectation is that his A2 pulley should be as good as new, able to withstand the pressure required to throw his fastball and slider. Morrow is uncertain if one pitch will take more of a toll than the other.

“When I start throwing (sliders) maybe I’ll feel something, but you would think a fastball would put more pressure on it because you’re using both fingers,” said Morrow. “I did it on a slider, but I think it would have went either way, not necessarily on that exact pitch, but any pitch. I don’t think it’s the slider’s fault. But I hope everything would be the same when I come back, that I wouldn’t have to make any adjustments that way.”

The Blue Jays are certainly hoping Morrow can regain his past form, and if he does he would provide a significant boost to the club. His plan is to serve as a trade deadline type of addition.

“Definitely,” he said, “that’s what I’m looking to do, come in at really a crucial point of the season and pitch the way I have in the past and contribute and add something to the team.”

Jose Reyes’ seventh-inning error led to big trouble for the Blue Jays, but he atoned for that in a big way in Tuesday’s 7-6 win over the New York Yankees.

Mike Wilner looks at the rough nights endured by shortstops Jose Reyes and Derek Jeter.

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