A lot of baseball careers have been more productive than Brandon Morrow’s. Few have been more interesting.
Morrow, who grew up in Rohnert Park, has always been a tantalizing and heartbreaking pitcher. His stuff has frequently been electric. But something, usually an injury, has always gotten in his way. Just when you think Morrow is ready to take his place among the game’s aces, he gets derailed.
And just when you think he’s on the way out, here he comes again.
Morrow, who will be 33 on July 26, isn’t young anymore. He isn’t a starter anymore, either. But he has found rejuvenation in the bullpen of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who own a nine-game winning streak, a 23-3 mark in their past 26 games and, as of Monday afternoon, a comical 27-game lead over your Giants.
“It’s incredible, the run that this team has been on,” Morrow said by phone this weekend. “Since the second time I came up (from Triple-A on June 21), we may have two losses in that whole time. Maybe one more in San Diego? I can’t think of another. It’s been incredible to watch it and then really enjoyable to be a part of it.”
It’s another surprising twist in the saga of Brandon Morrow.
The then-Anaheim Angels drafted Morrow right out of Rancho Cotate High School in 2003, but he opted to play at Cal instead, and wound up going to the Seattle Mariners with the fifth pick in the 2006 draft. Four of the six picks that followed were used on Andrew Miller, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer.
Morrow was a hot prospect, and he would, at times, justify the excitement. He was pitching for the Mariners at the age of 22, and at 23 he saved 10 games for them.
After a trade in December of 2009, Morrow became a starter for the Toronto Blue Jays. He went 31-25 between 2010 and 2012, with moments of brilliance. On Aug. 8, 2010, he struck out 17 Rays in a one-hit shutout, losing his bid for a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning on a hard chopper past the second baseman. Morrow led the American League with 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 2011, and was seventh in the league with 203 overall. In 2012, he went 10-7 with three shutouts and an earned run average of 2.96.
Morrow was a big, strong righty who routinely flirted with 100 miles per hour. But his body was also his limitation. He has spent time on the disabled list for biceps tendinitis, arm inflammation, an oblique strain, radial nerve entrapment, a strain to his index finger tendon sheath and shoulder inflammation, and has been fought through lesser maladies ranging from forearm tightness to lower-back stiffness.
Morrow’s medical history went to a new level in January of 2016 when he was diagnosed with valley fever, a fungal infection of the lungs that mimics flu symptoms.
The pitcher was already in a diminished state when he contracted the fungus. Morrow had undergone surgery to repair a shoulder impingement in August 2015, and was getting back to long toss when he re-signed with the Padres that December. It was on a flight home to Scottsdale, Arizona, following a team physical that he started feeling ill.