Brandon Morrow didn't hide his frustration Saturday standing in front of his locker after the Seattle Mariners placed their young closer on the 15-day disabled list because of biceps tendinitis.
Measuring his words carefully, Morrow disagreed with the decision by manager Don Wakamatsu and the Mariners front office, who decided to take a cautious approach with Morrow, despite the pitcher arguing that he's been ready to pitch for days.
"I didn't want to. I think I'm fine. I think I'm ready to pitch," Morrow said. "But they argued otherwise and eventually won the argument."
Morrow's move is retroactive to April 24 -- the day after he last pitched -- meaning the Mariners will be without their closer only until May 9, if he's fully recovered by that point. Seattle selected right-hander Denny Stark from Triple-A Tacoma to take Morrow's spot on the 25-man roster, and the Mariners now have all spots filled on their 40-man roster.
But Morrow is headed to the DL unwillingly. He picked up the save against Tampa Bay on April 23 with one inning of work, then was completely shutdown for the next week. Morrow's throwing shoulder was a little stiff a couple of days later, but Morrow felt he was fine after a couple of days off.
Last season, Morrow felt similar shoulder discomfort, sat down for a couple of days, and then returned to go 12 consecutive appearances without allowing a run. Morrow finally broached the conversation with Wakamatsu after he was not used on Friday night in Seattle's 8-7 comeback win over Oakland. It was at that point the disabled list was first mentioned.
"I was available the last two games in Anaheim, I was available the entire time in Chicago. I was available last night in the bullpen and they decided to put me on the DL," Morrow said.
Morrow is 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA this season, but was perfect in his last five save chances. Ultimately, Wakamatsu said the decision was simply to give Morrow a few more days of rest and to test out his arm in the bullpen instead of a game situation during the next week.
"We had talked about him being available, but it's kind of at that point where we think that if we're a little proactive with this we can allow him seven days or eight days ... and we'll be able to control it a little more," Wakamatsu said. "We thought it was the best move for Brandon and also the club."
Morrow missed most of spring training with forearm stiffness, but this injury appears to be a separate issue. Wakamatsu said Morrow would throw a short bullpen session before Saturday's game and then be re-evaluated on Sunday.
Stark is back with a major league club for the first time since 2004 when he was with Colorado. Stark missed tall of the 2006 and 2007 seasons after undergoing a pair of Tommy John surgeries, then spent 2008 pitching at Double-A and Triple-A for the Mariners. He was originally a fourth-round pick of Seattle's in the 1996 draft and has appeared in 64 career major league games.
Stark had appeared in seven games with Tacoma this season and had a 3.97 ERA.
"I'm just trying to soak everything in," Stark said.
Later Saturday, the Mariners signed right-hander Steven Shell to a minor-league deal after he was designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals on April 20. Shell, who pitched in four games for the Nationals, was assigned to Triple-A. He was 2-2 in 29 games last season for Washington.
This hurts. Morrow was moved to the bullpen to, in part, keep him healthy. Arm injuries, no matter how trivial they may seem, are never good for a pitcher - persistent, nagging injuries can be just as debilitating as a severe injury (such as a torn rotator cuff).
Here's hoping Morrow gets healthy. He's a fantastic talent, and I believe he could be the best closer in baseball in time (though, I still think he should be starting).