Toronto Blue Jays' Brandon Morrow Impressive in First Start of 2011 Season

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIApril 24, 2011

TORONTO - MAY 16: Brandon Morrow #23 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws against the Texas Rangers during a MLB game at the Rogers Centre May 16, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

Brandon Morrow's Final Line: 5.2 IP 3 H 3R 3ER 2BB 10K 1 GB/FB Ratio 1 HR 

Brandon Morrow looked very effective against in yesterday's 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay Rays in his first start coming back from the DL after an elbow strain.

If Blue Jays fans and Morrow fantasy owners were worried about Morrow's stuff coming back from injury, those fears were alleviated after Morrow attacked the Rays lineup for 5.2 innings and 93 pitches. 

Morrow's average fastball velocity in yesterday's start (93.7 mph) was similar to his 2010 average velocity (93.4 mph), and he reached 97 mph a few times in the second third innings. Six Rays struck out on Morrow's fastball, and he had a 15 percent swinging strike rate on the pitch.

However, Johnny Damon did the most damage on the pitch, hitting a 96 mph fastball for a two-run home run in the first inning. 

The Rays do not make the most contact; they are currently 24th in the league in terms of making contact and Morrow recorded a 14 swinging strikes (a 15 percent rate).

Like in 2010, Morrow's best pitch of the night was his slider. He recorded five swinging strikes out of the 20 he threw and recorded three strikeouts with the pitch.

Morrow had better command over his off speed stuff. He was able to get slider, curveball and changeup (PITCH/FX calls it a splitter) over for strikes 65 percent of the time while getting his fastball over at 60 percent. That came to an overall 62 percent strike percentage. 

However, some of the same concerns that I noticed last season popped up when his pitch count reached the 80s. Morrow's velocity came down slight. Morrow needs to build arm strength after considering this is his start to the season, but I noticed the same problem towards the end of last season with a more significant drop in velocity later in games. 

Jays fans should be excited with what Morrow showed yesterday as he continues to build his reputation as one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball.