By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
PEORIA, Ariz. — Nobody knows for sure, but the shuttle from reliever to starter to reliever may have caught up with Brandon Morrow’s right arm.
The Seattle Mariners’ hard-throwing 23-year-old hasn’t pitched since Monday because of a sore shoulder and there’s no firm plan for his return to the mound.
The Mariners believe it’s nothing more than a case of “dead arm,” which is common among pitchers at this time of year. Morrow suspects the change in his throwing regimen from reliever to starter and back to reliever since last season also may be a factor.
“Going back and forth from starting to relieving, I’m throwing more often now,” he said. “It’s more sore than painful.”
Morrow, the Mariners’ first-round draft pick in 2006, made 60 relief appearances last year, all but eight of them one-inning stints.
With two openings in the starting rotation as the offseason began, the Mariners sent Morrow to winter ball in Venezuela to build his arm strength as a potential starter. He made seven starts and not only strengthened his arm for multiple innings but became accustomed to pitching on every fifth day.
However, when the Mariners acquired Carlos Silva and Erik Bedard to fill the rotation, it pushed Morrow back to relief and a much different throwing regimen.
Morrow said he’s not concerned about this setback and plans to throw on the side Sunday. If there’s no discomfort, he could be slotted into a game next week.
“It’s just tired and tender, basically,” he said. “It started bothering me between my last two outings.”
Morrow has pitched in five exhibition games, the last being Monday when he faced six White Sox hitters and didn’t get anybody out.
“A lot of guys this time of year go through dead arm,” trainer Rick Griffin said. “That’s what it is. You have to watch them to make sure they don’t try to push through it and suffer a setback.”
Reed, McLaren meet: Outfielder Jeremy Reed has fewer at-bats than the other players competing for a bench role, and he met Friday morning with manager John McLaren about it.
McLaren said only that it was a meeting to reassure Reed that he has a chance to make the team.
“We’re just being honest with everybody,” McLaren said.
The numbers so far haven’t shown it — 13 at-bats for Reed compared with 31 for Mike Morse, 34 for Wladimir Balentien, 27 for Greg Norton and 19 for Charlton Jimerson.
“They all bring something different to the table and when it’s all said and done, we’ll sit down and see what the best pieces are for the bench,” McLaren said.
Still, Reed’s chances of making the team seemed slim when McLaren said early in spring training that he likely would choose a right-handed-hitting outfielder for the bench. Reed bats left-handed.
Reed also has a minor league option remaining while Morse, the team’s hottest hitter so far, is out of options.
Edgar for a day: Former Mariners star Edgar Martinez visited the ballpark Friday and said he immediately felt at home in a clubhouse filled with familiar faces.
Martinez, McLaren, third-base coach Sam Perlozzo, bullpen coach Norm Charlton and special assistant Lee Elia were all together on the Mariners’ playoff teams in 1995 and 1997.
“It’s a good atmosphere in the clubhouse with guys like Mac and the coaching staff,” Martinez said. “They’ve all been on winning teams.”
Martinez goes back to his Seattle-area home today, but McLaren is trying to talk him into coming back to Peoria before the end of spring training to work with the hitters.
“He can reinforce what Jeff and Lee are telling them,” McLaren said. “When he was going good in the old days, the opposition would be in the other dugout watching him take batting practice. He’s a Hall of Famer for me.”
Going down: The Mariners’ minor league teams will begin playing exhibition games today, and there could be some major league talent on those fields before the month is over.
McLaren said he might send a few hitters down in order to get more at-bats, much the way Martinez did when he played. Martinez would jump from one game to another on the cloverleaf of minor league diamonds and often get more than a dozen at-bats a day.
Pitchers also may see some minor league games, especially on days the major leaguers are scheduled to play division opponents. Erik Bedard faced the Angels early this month, but McLaren said that probably won’t happen this close to the regular season.
“That was early in spring training and didn’t make a difference,” McLaren said. “When you have someone matched up in the last week, that’s when you think about it. You don’t want to give them a preview. There are two or three games we’ve already talked about.”
The Mariners face the Angels only once more this month, March 23 at Tempe. Other games against division teams are March 17, 22 and 25 against the Rangers.
Of note: Ichiro Suzuki’s 2-for-4 game Friday included a two-run homer in the third inning, his first spring training home run since March 29, 2003. … Over the past four games, M’s starters Felix Hernandez, Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista have allowed three earned runs in 20 innings. … Second baseman Jose Lopez and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt each played all nine innings Friday. … The crowd of 11,454 was the largest for a game at Peoria Stadium this year.
Read Kirby Arnold’s blog on the Mariners at www.heraldnet.com