Big League Stew - MLB

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Brandon Morrow's(notes) first spring start will come against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon and you'd be hard pressed to find a more appropriate opponent.

After all, it was just last August when Morrow took a routine Sunday start against the Rays at Rogers Centre and turned it into a coming out party for his career. Morrow put together a Dave Stieb-like performance that afternoon, throwing 8 2/3 hitless innings before Evan Longoria(notes) broke up the no-no bid with two outs in the ninth inning of the Jays' 1-0 win

While it would have been nice for Morrow to join the roughly 85 pitchers who did throw a no-hitter in 2010, he finished the game with plenty to be proud of. His 17 strikeouts were the most in a single game by a pitcher in 2010 (three other pitchers only reached 14) and he finished with a 100 on the Bill James' metric 'game score,' which was only the fourth time a pitcher has hit that number in a game since 1920.

"I've taken a lot of good things out of it," the 26-year-old righthander said on Monday. "It was my first big game and my first shutout and my first complete game. Combined, those things were enough to satisfy me ... (The one hit) hasn't bothered me at all."

Indeed, Morrow sees that big start in a "first game of the rest of your career" sort of way. And it's an appropriate outlook. After having difficulty harnessing his talent as both a starter and reliever for the Seattle Mariners, Morrow was traded to Toronto before the 2010 season and immediately imported into the Jays rotation.

He struggled early, but a big mechanical change he made with pitching coach Bruce Walton —  Morrow's arm slot was lowered five or six inches — paid off. His control improved at the three-quarter angle and his results after June 1 were stellar — 9-5, a 3.13 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 86.1 innings.

Since he had never pitched more than 70 innings in his three seasons in Seattle, the Jays shut him down on Aug. 28 after 146 innings in 2010. How much his innings total and pitch counts increase in 2011 remains to be seen, but Morrow said arm strength has been a focus now that he's confident and certain of what his role will be. (He's again working with Walton, who kept his job during the transition from Cito Gasto to John Farrell.)

With the Jays looking for someone to distinguish themselves as a leader of a young rotation, Morrow's power arm would seem to be a good candidate if it can hold up over the course of a full season.

"It's been great coming over here," Morrow said. "Right away I knew what my role was going to be and they really stuck with me even when I was struggling. It's paid off."

'Duk is in the Grapefruit League this week as part of Big League Stew's Spring Swing. Follow his journey up and down Florida's Gulf Coast here and through Facebook and Twitter.  

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