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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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March 20, 2008 9:38 AM

Sights and Sounds: Morrow's bullpen session

Posted by Geoff Baker

A look at yesterday's late-afternoon bullpen session thrown by Brandon Morrow. Interesting to see the interplay between him and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, even for something as routine as this. It amazes me how some folks think that coaches at the big league level are simply there to pick up towels for the players. Nope. It's the same as in Little League. The players are told things and they (for the most part) listen. Even the veterans (the smart ones) take in the advice they're given. Now, some pitchers, who've earned their living for years throwing a certain way, will be reluctant to take advice, especially from a new coach. It often takes time to build trust.

Also, there are certain things a player is expected to know once he reaches the big league level. But you never stop learning. I guess that's the lesson this morning.

To clear some things up from having read the previous comments thread: Sean Green is on this team. Actually, if Morrow isn't 100 percent good to go, Green becomes a very important late-inning fixture in the eighth. He already is being leaned on heavily.

Also, when I asked John McLaren about this yesterday, he told me that probably only one, if any, of the Arthur Rhodes, Chris Reitsma, Mark Lowe trio would be ready to start the season with the M's. Speaking of M's relievers, check out Seattle-based ESPN reporter Jim Caple in this video, catching knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Thanks to all of you who wrote in about today's story on Mariners pitching prospect Nick Hill, a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army. What do you think about the story? I got an email from a U.S. Marine who had to pass up a Division 1 soccer scholarship offer to go to Iraq. Should pro athletes from the Army be allowed to pursue sports careers while amateur athletes, or pros and amateurs in other branches of the military, must first complete their full military obligations (often overseas in conflict zones)? Interesting discussion point. What do you think about it?

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Posted by blazers91

9:59 AM, Mar 20, 2008

Regarding the Hill article, he's not "training to be afirst lieutenant." First lieutenant is an automatic promotion from second lieutenant unless you shoot your commanding officer or some such similar offense. His "basic training" is what every West Point/ROTC/OCS grad goes through after graduation to learn their specific MOS. Second lieutenant is an automatic rank upon graudation, but being ready to lead a platoon comes with training.

Nick - good stuff! I'm proud of you, and hope to see you make it with the big club someday.

Derrick T.
USMA Class of 1995

Posted by Ziasudra

10:17 AM, Mar 20, 2008

The whole point of the new program is to allow the service academies to be able to attract pro prospects to their college level programs. Tit for tat, pure and simple.
No problem.

Posted by The Masked Blogger

10:18 AM, Mar 20, 2008

The Masked Blogger wants R. A. D. on the team because his knuckle ball is ďRADĒ

Baek cloud be very good for this team but I donít see a way to keep them both, any ideas?

Posted by Ziasudra

10:18 AM, Mar 20, 2008

The whole point of the new program is to allow the service academies to be able to attract pro prospects to their college level programs. Tit for tat, pure and simple.
No problem.

Posted by The Masked Blogger

10:20 AM, Mar 20, 2008

Also good article!

Posted by jujay

10:27 AM, Mar 20, 2008

if lowe and rhodes both start on the dl, baek and dickey could both be in the bullpen and get a month in to see who will work out better plus get better trades if baek can do well in reg. season.

Posted by Snowbound

10:51 AM, Mar 20, 2008

Geoff, it'd be interesting to find out why in his bullpen session that Morrow was throwing everything from the windup instead of the stretch position. If he's going to be a reliever for the M's all year why would he be throwing from the windup. Relievers tend to always use the stretch whether there are runners on or not so as to not change their routine or mechanics.

Posted by jujay

10:53 AM, Mar 20, 2008

Morrow is traditionally a starter so he is probably more comfortable and can get more power from a windup. Even as a reliever he has lots of opportunities to throw from a windup if he prefers that.

Posted by Snowbound

11:01 AM, Mar 20, 2008

From College thru now Morrow has appeared in 111 games of those 111 games he's started 29. That really doesn't come across as a traditional starter... Even in College 42 appearances... 24 as a starter.

Whether he feels comfortable from the windup really isn't the point, he's main job is going to be coming in late in games alot of times with runners on, with his high walk rate they should be focusing on consolidating things for him to make him more effective... if he's not a starter eliminate the windup and get him comfortable pitching from one motion only.

Posted by jujay

11:04 AM, Mar 20, 2008

My mistake, I thought he converted into a reliever during college and went back and forth but apparently I was mixed up.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

11:14 AM, Mar 20, 2008

Do you see Stottlemyre having some automatic "street cred" with the pitching staff, b/c of his reputation and past success? Or, without naming names obviously, does he have to convince and win over some pitchers on certain things, just like everyone else?

And is Mel seeming to have an effect on Felix? One of the big things this offseason that made me excited about Mel coming onboard is to be a positive influence on Felix, and to ensure he's pushing himself and building good habits.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

11:18 AM, Mar 20, 2008

And can we all get over the whole Morrow as starter thing? The arguments over whether he should have been used differently to develop into a starter, whether his talent and the M's flexibility are wasted as a reliever, etc. are not QUITE as stale as the whole Adam Jones thing, but it's getting there.

Brandon Morrow is now a late-inning reliever. Period. At his best, he should be a main setup guy. The goal should be to see him in the 7th and 8th as much as possible if the starter can't make it past 6 and change, unless stats or lefty/righty matchups dictate otherwise.

This is my vain attempt to forestall the usual Morrow moaning. ;)

Posted by Chris from Bothell

11:23 AM, Mar 20, 2008

And on Nick Hill story (last post for the moment, honest) - Pro athletes and amateur athletes should be treated like any other workin' schmo who decides to serve their nation in this way. Fulfill your duty, then go be a pro or amateur entertainer (which is what an athlete is). And if you're a reservist, and you get called, you go and get treated no differently than if a reservist gets called up while they're working at Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks or the fish market at Pike Place.

Note that I have zero military experience myself, know only a couple good friends who've gone to Iraq, and am more than willing to be corrected on policy or how military service actually works...

Posted by jujay

11:24 AM, Mar 20, 2008

Chris- there was no moaning about if morrow should be a starter, we were merely discussing why he was throwing from a windup.

Posted by beatsme

11:39 AM, Mar 20, 2008

David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs got out of part of his obligations after graduating from the Naval Academy. I think he had to serve 1 or 2 years of a 4 or 6 year obligation.I believe he was allowed to buy his way out also.Which was not to difficult because he signed a pretty lucrative deal with San Antonio at the time.

Posted by scottM

11:47 AM, Mar 20, 2008

"Should pro athletes from the Army be allowed to pursue sports careers while amateur athletes, or pros and amateurs in other branches of the military, must first complete their full military obligations"

This is not about amateur athletes gaining equal treatment with pro athletes or about one branch acting so differently than the others. [Note Prince William (Princess Di's and Charles's son) being evacuated from Afganistan.] It's more like the Hollywood actors in WWII getting favored placement. The preferential treatment Nick Hill is receiving (through no fault of his own), is part of the favoritism that has always been in the military. In this case, it's done to promote enlistment.

David "The Admiral" Robinson never had to serve after graduating from Annapolis because he was above the height limit. (He was 6'5" when he entered the Naval Academy, but 7'0" when he got out). But, of course, he was a great recruitment tool for the Navy.

Again nice interview, and best of luck to Lt. Hill and his success as a lefty.

Posted by scrapiron

11:50 AM, Mar 20, 2008

Napolean McCallum was a running back for the Raiders, and was stationed on a ship next to mine, and he served in the Navy and played for the Raiders on weekends. I know this wouldn't work for baseball because it is more time consuming, but that's another option they've worked out with pro athletes in the past.

Posted by beatsme

11:59 AM, Mar 20, 2008

According to Wikipedia David Robinson as I said served two years of a five year obligation then was discharged because of his height.

Posted by Mikavexo

12:06 PM, Mar 20, 2008

As I recall, Elvis was in the Army and basically just traveled around singing. There have been a multitude of boxers in the army whose duty it was to travel and box. Weren't some of our olympic boxers in the army? I don't have a problem with this primarily because it is a recruiting/marketing tool. The military has journalists, choirs and band members so why not boxers, baseball, basketball and football players as well?

Posted by scrapiron

12:13 PM, Mar 20, 2008

Don't forget Ted Williams. He had his baseball career interrupted twice, to serve in WWII and the Korean wars as a fighter pilot. If it wasn't for those interruptions in the prime of his career, Williams would probably have been the home run king when he retired.

Posted by skoorbo

1:15 PM, Mar 20, 2008

Morrow, is landing on his heal. This was a problem Meche had, it causes his head to jolt and will mess with his location. That explains a lot about his numbers this spring.

Posted by coug

1:40 PM, Mar 20, 2008

On the subject of morrow. he was not very good in college. I have a few buddies who played on wsu's team and they said they loved when they got to face him as they just T'd off on him. I think the cougs went off on him for 10+ er one game, he just was flat out not good. I didnt understand why the m's (or any one) drafted him and his lack of control cost us BIGTIME last year.

Posted by jujay

2:29 PM, Mar 20, 2008

Morrow posted a 2.05 era at cal in 2006 not to mention shutting down Washington State so you are very mistaken

Posted by jujay

2:33 PM, Mar 20, 2008

oh and only 8 career hits given up to WSU

Posted by BandwagonJumper

2:45 PM, Mar 20, 2008

Should pro athletes from the Army be allowed to pursue sports careers while amateur athletes, or pros and amateurs in other branches of the military, must first complete their full military obligations?

No if you are contracted for 6 years you shouldn't be able to get out of it just because you are good at something else or you have the money to buy your way out. I'm a farmer and doubt the military would let me take time off just so I could bring in a harvest. In my opinion growing food and feeding people is more important than someone playing ball. It disgusts me that people get preferential treatment because they are a star or athlete. I know people that have been in the military for a very long time (25+ years) and are waiting for enough new recruits to come along so they can retire and people getting off easy just adds to the problem. Now granted there is the possibility because of the treatment there are more recruits that sign up, I donít know what the numbers are. Mainly I come from the school if you commit to something then you are committed for the full contract. If you are going to second guess yourself down the road then donít sign up in the first place.

Posted by MtGrizzly

2:52 PM, Mar 20, 2008

Morrow's line in 2006 against WSU: 7 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs, 8 strikeouts and the win.

Nobody enjoyed hitting against Brandon Morrow his last year in college.

Posted by Adam

3:04 PM, Mar 20, 2008

Chris from Bothell - No, the Morrow discussions are not stale because he's still a Mariner and his future is still relevant to this franchise.

The Mariners have done an absolute horrendous job of bringing Morrow along. They used the fifth pick on the guy and said he would be a starter. Then they got all hot and bothered over his fastball last spring and completely jumped the gun.

Every pitch he makes as a reliever, the farther he gets from ever starting in the big leagues. He is not even close to being an effective starter and the bigs, and McLaren and Co. really could care less, so long as he's effective enough in the bullpen to make them feel justified. It's their jobs ahead of his development (which, coincidentally, would be good for the franchise), plain and simple.

Somebody needs to fire these morons before they completely ruin Morrow.

Posted by Zach C

4:54 PM, Mar 20, 2008

The only reason Morrow has been put in this position is b/c Lowe got hurt...if he was able to go last spring, it wouldn't have mattered what Morrow did. when lowe gets better, we could see Morrow go back down...but it looks like mac wants him up here (and you already know how I feel about this argument)

Posted by Batter Up!!!

8:18 PM, Mar 20, 2008

Hey Geoff, I really enjoyed the link to ESPN with Dickey and Caple. I spent a little time behind the plate as a blocker and got a kick out Caple's attempt to catch the ball. The Uker line, "Anyone can catch a knuckleballer, just wait for it to stop rolling and pick it up" made me laff out loud. Dickey should be a very good addition to our team as he adds a unique demension to the pitching staff.

I, as many others, would rather see Morrow starting in Tacoma, but if he gets a chance to play in the bigs I think he should make the best of it. Don't think it will ruin him and many never get the chance.

The Lt. Hill story was special and I'm sure will bring much emotion to the surface. I am happy to see the Army is getting a little progressive, but anything they can do to help recruiting right now is good for them. I'm a Vet, USN '63-'67. I think everyone in this country should serve at least 1 year of service, if not 2, as a volunteer in some capacity. Peace Corp, healthcare, building services, etc. I think it has merit for the person and the country. A little political for a baseball blog I know, but you asked.

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