Morrow headed to Seattle bullpen
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) -- Without a hint of doubt, Seattle's Brandon Morrow says his future will be as a relief pitcher.
Morrow confirmed Sunday morning what manager Don Wakamatsu announced earlier -- that Morrow will head back to the bullpen for the start of the season.
This won't be a temporary move to build arm strength after Morrow missed much of spring training with forearm stiffness. He said the move was determined a week ago, adding that he "feels at home" in the bullpen and doesn't envision returning to a starting role.
"There's no discussion about going back so far," said Morrow, taken with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft and pegged since then as a starter. "I think that I'd be more useful as a bullpen pitcher than a starting pitcher."
Also on Sunday, the Mariners optioned catcher Jeff Clement to Triple-A Tacoma, ending his hopes of earning the backup role to Kenji Johjima. They also released disappointing reliever Tyler Walker, who never developed into a potential replacement for All-Star closer J.J. Putz.
In another move Sunday, the Mariners acquired utility player Chris Burke from the San Diego Padres for cash. Burke has played every position except pitcher and catcher. He appeared in 86 games last year with Arizona and was a non-roster invite to Padres camp this spring.
Whether Morrow begins the season as Putz's replacement, as a setup reliever or in the minors will be determined by his health over the final week of spring training. Wakamatsu hopes to get Morrow into three games, including back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday, to determine if his arm is ready for multiple appearances in a week.
Morrow said he got the idea for the switch in December when the Mariners traded Putz to the New York Mets. Once adamant about developing into a starter as he was in college at California, Morrow saw a significant hole in the Mariners' bullpen.
His hopes of being a full-time starter this year had been buoyed by his performance at the end of last season, when he made five starts in September and went 2-2 with a 5.79 ERA. In his first start, Morrow held the New York Yankees hitless for 7 2-3 innings.
Still, he remembered recording 10 saves as the fill-in closer when Putz was injured for a time last season.
"Since the trade of J.J., I kept going back and forth, back and forth. ... It really has been weighing on me," Morrow said. "I just felt a big relief when I went back to the bullpen. I just feel like it's my home now. I've been there two years now."
Morrow likes the routine of pitching in relief and how his arm felt after throwing one inning on multiple days, compared with the feeling after he threw six or seven innings on five days of rest.
Diabetes is also a factor. Morrow often found himself with low blood sugar in the early innings of games he started and then trying to adjust his levels as the game progressed.
He could have learned to manage his blood sugar levels better as a starter, he said, but added, "it is just easier to have five or six innings to level out before you get in there."
While Morrow's decision should help solve some of Seattle's relief questions, Walker is out of the picture.
When Seattle signed Walker, a right-hander who had 23 saves with San Francisco in 2005, he was deemed a leading bullpen candidate. But he was hampered by injuries this spring.
"We have determined that there are other pitchers ahead of Tyler in our bullpen," general manager Jack Zduriencik said.
When last season ended, Clement was considered a leading candidate to be the Mariners' designated hitter and split time behind the plate with Johjima.
Clement's star waned when the club brought in Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney, who likely will share the DH role, and when Clement struggled at the plate this spring. He hit .268 but didn't show the left-handed power the club wanted, with just three doubles and no homers. He also struck out 11 times in 41 at-bats.
"The best thing for Jeff is to go down and get some work in Triple-A," Wakamatsu said. "Offensively, he didn't have the greatest spring, but we believe he will be a great hitter. ... I think it's just more maturity."
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