|Photo courtesy @james_in_to. You should follow that dude.|
Good Morrow: I spoiled myself (and my brother and his lovely companion) and got nice seats behind the plate for Brandon Morrow's start yesterday, in part because I wanted to get a good look at his location and movement. (Also, I thought I was joining a friend in that section, but it turns out he has trouble discerning the difference between 128 and 120. Bully for me, though. It worked out well.)
Morrow ended up with an overstuffed pitch count early on in the game, in part thanks to a few singles and the heart-stopping adventure that is Moises Sierra's defense in right. But I also found that he was spending too much time down and away from Red Sox hitters, trying to coax swings from them on breaking pitches. But as the game wore on and Morrow needed to get more economical in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, it seemed to me that Morrow was working inside with his fastball more often, eliciting weak swings on hard stuff. It was pretty to watch.
To say that a player has "ace stuff" is a bit of an empty statement at this point, because so many pitchers do. What distinguishes players who assume that role is how they use what they've got. Beyond the quality and velocity of Morrow's pitches, he shows an ability to bear down in tight situations, select the right pitch and to hit his spots when he needs to.
My biggest concern with Morrow going forward - and what prevents me from calling him a bona fide "ace" - is his ability to stay healthy throughout the entire season. I certainly recognize that this year's injury wasn't an elbow or shoulder issue, so maybe there is solace to be taken from that fact. But Morrow's health is not a concern that I consider separately from the economy of his outings, because he needs to have some easier innings if he's going to make it through more than 200 of them in the coming seasons.
Hech Variations: It was a treat on Sunday afternoon to get a good look at Adeiny Hechavarria, both at the plate and in the field at his natural position. Seeing him smack a tater late in a tight game was just the gravy on top of the sundae.
After his early big league struggles, Hechavarria has posted a .725 OPS (.294 OBP, .431 SLG) in his last 22 games, and he looks increasingly comfortable at the plate. His swings are more aggressive and less defensive lately, making the notion of him as an everyday player next season seem less remote.
(If the low-.700's OPS scares you, it's worth noting that in 2011, the average output for an MLB shortstop was a .317 OBP and a .380 SLG, while second base was .320/.389. There's a lot of failure that you have to bear at those premium up-the-middle positions.)
There's a pretty interesting argument that we could have as to whether if Hechavarria needs to play shortstop for the Jays to get full value from him next year. It looks as though his glove will be among the elite at the position, and shifting that over to second base might squander some of his best attributes.
This isn't an attempt to rush Yunel Escobar out the door, as I don't think that he's as bad as he's looked at times this year. But the Yunel-or-Adeiny discussion has gone from vague chatter over the past few years to a fairly substantial question for 2013 and beyond.
All This and More...: If you missed the Blue Jays Talk post-game show yesterday, I snuck into the radio broadcast booth and chatted with Mike Wilner yesterday afternoon. If you want to hear us talk about Adeiny/Yunel, ponder minor league affiliates, swoon over Shin-Soo Choo, or other sundry items that came up, check out the audio at the bottom of Mike's post-game blogpost yesterday.