s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone

SAN DIEGO — It was sometime around the turn of the century, somewhere in Rohnert Park. John Morrow can’t recall the details.

The youth baseball team was gathered in a circle around the coach. You know the scene, a bunch of squirrely 12- and 13-year-olds.

Among them was Brandon Morrow, one of John’s three sons.

“It was the first team meeting of the season,” John said, “and the coach asked them, ‘Who wants to play in the big leagues?’ A bunch of hands shot up, a few didn’t. Brandon was one of those who didn’t raise his hand.”

So, turn the hands of time forward a full 20 years. The now 32-year-old Morrow awaits as the clock and his one-year deal with the San Diego Padres run out of time. The deadline is the end of the World Series and that will be either Game 5 (Oct. 30) or Game 6 (Nov. 1) or Game 7 (Nov. 2).

“I don’t know what will happen,” Morrow said in late September during the Padres’ final homestand. With eight-plus years of Major League Baseball service (with the Mariners, Blue Jays and Padres) under this belt, Morrow isn’t sure whether he figures in the Padres’ plans or not.

“The key to Brandon is his health,” said Padres manager Andy Green. The team’s general manager A.J. Preller, coming off a 30-day suspension by MLB, was making no personnel comments at all a week ago.

One thing Morrow knows for sure is that whatever his baseball future holds, he will be tackling it with his first-born child — 2-month-old William — along for ride. And it’ll be a shame if William (born Aug. 27) never gets to see his dad pitch in the majors. “Oh, I’m not too awful worried about that,” Morrow said. “I plan on pitching another four or five years so I figure he’ll remember some of it.”

San Diego Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley is pacing in the team’s dugout prior to another game, another opponent, another unique set of circumstances. He’ll do this 162 times before the season ends.

Brandon Morrow isn’t pitching for the Padres this particular evening. Balsley is asked how the team came to sign Morrow to a one-year deal and how he was doing so far after a couple of starting assignments.

Balsley gives one of those quizzical “you have to be kidding me” looks.

“He’s doing very well,” Balsley says. “When Brandon is healthy he is a really, really good pitcher. Remember, this is a guy who had 17 strikeouts in a game.”

One out short of glory

No story about Morrow would be complete without mentioning August 8, 2010. Tampa Bay at Toronto. About six years removed from Rancho Cotate High School and a couple of seasons from Cal, Morrow struck out 17 Rays batters and had a no-hitter in progress with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. On a 1-1 count, Evan Longoria hit a sharp grounder to the left of Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill.

“It barely hit off the top of his glove,” Morrow said. “It was a clean hit, good call.”

Did Longoria ever say anything to him about breaking up the oh-so-close no-hitter? “No, not a word,” Morrow said. “But to be honest with you, if I had struck him out I wouldn’t have said anything to him either.”

Morrow left the stadium that day with his first MLB complete game and first shutout.

Healthy is a big word

At the beginning of 2015, Brandon was a starter. At the end of the 2016 season he pitched in the team’s final two games in Arizona against the Diamondbacks. Brandon isn’t a starter any longer, he’s used solely in relief.

Healthy is a big word for Brandon Morrow. It’s not the nagging injuries — right forearm strain, strained left oblique, forearm tightness — that have sidelined him sporadically over his major league career. It’s the dragon he slays daily, hourly. Type 1 diabetes.

“I wasn’t feeling well so I got a checkup. Next day they called and said to take me to the emergency room right away. My blood sugar number was 715,” Morrow said. He was about 18 years old at the time.

One San Diego-area diabetes specialist said the 715 reading meant Brandon was near diabetic coma stage.

So that one trip to the ER led to a quick fix of the immediate problem via insulin control, then to a long-term solution — he wears an insulin pump. Yes, it supplies small amounts of insulin into his system throughout the day. The device is clipped to his belt and hooked up to a catheter.

And if that sounds cumbersome while he throws a 95-mph fastball to Yasiel Puig, well, it is. He tried doing it for a while, but then opted to leave off the pump while he pitches and instead check his blood sugar in the dugout between innings.

“I don’t know where that (diabetes) came from,” John Morrow said. “I think I had an uncle who had it, but no one else in the family, so I guess it really isn’t hereditary.”

Brandon’s job to lose

Shortly before Christmas 2014, Brandon’s journey found him signing as a free agent with San Diego.

Why the Padres?

“I just liked what they were doing with the team this year, and I knew I had a chance to start,” Morrow said.

And even then there was that great American baseball unknown facing him again. On the surface, he was competing for the Padres’ No. 5 starting job with Cuban-born rising star Odrisamer Despaigne in 2015.

But behind the starting quartet of James Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy, was it really coming down to the two of them?

“Well, it kind of was,” then-Padres manager Bud Black said, “but we knew all along what kind of pitcher Brandon could be for us. And the fact that the two of them were competing for the job helped both of them during spring training.”

In other words, the job from the beginning was probably Brandon’s to lose in the spring … and he didn’t.

“Competition is always going to be a good thing,” Balsley added. “Just watch him if we can keep him healthy.”

So, with a couple of Padres seasons under his insulin-pump-carrying belt, here is part of Morrow’s resume:

This season he finished 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 18 games (all in relief), with 8 strikeouts in 16 innings,

He started five games for the 2015 Padres and the team was 5-0 in his starts.

Since he broke into the majors in 2007 with the Seattle Mariners, he is 45-43 with a 4.16 ERA.

In his 101st career appearance he made his first career start for the Mariners and no-hit the Yankees for 7⅔ innings on Sept, 5, 2008.

Two years later, as a Toronto Blue Jay, he struck out 17 Tampa Bay batters in a game. That was the time he had a no-hitter until a two-out single in the ninth spoiled it.

The one-year deal he signed with the Padres last winter boosted his earnings over 10 years in the majors to more than $27 million.

And Morrow has never had a hit. He’s appeared in 254 games and all but a handful of those were in the American League with its designated hitter rule. “But I’m close,” he said grinning “Fouled one off against the Dodgers. Swinging the bat pretty good.”

Soon, he’ll learn his fate

Two summers ago, during the time Brandon wore a Blue Jays uniform (2010-14), he treated the family — all but the family dog Spot (yes, that’s his name) — to a trip to New York for a series against the Yankees. But, again, Brandon was on the disabled list and unable to pitch.

“But it was great,” John said. “We got to go down on the field and tour the stadium.”

By now Papa Morrow, a contractor, has moved on from coaching the freshman Rancho baseball team to the varsity coaching position.

And fairly soon, Brandon will learn his baseball fate: Padres? Another team? Relief role? Minor leagues? Majors?

“Being in the minors this summer rehabbing didn’t bother me at all,” he admitted. “You have to remember I never played in the minors until now. I went straight from Cal to Seattle.”

As it turned out, Brandon really did raise his hand, at least inside, on that spring day in Rohnert Park long ago.

Show Comment