Morrow's goal is returning to help Blue Jays in 2014
Righty meticulously rehabbing injury to index finger on pitching hand
TORONTO -- Brandon Morrow's road to recovery is well underway, but his journey back to the Major Leagues is far from over.
Morrow was back with the Blue Jays on Tuesday afternoon to continue his rehab from a torn tendon sheath in his right index finger. He began throwing late last week, and he will continue doing so under the watchful eye of Toronto's medical staff.
The hope is that Morrow will be able to rejoin the Blue Jays at some point down the stretch, but an exact timetable for his return still remains very much up in the air.
"There's no doubt that if [rehab] continues the way it has been, that I'll pitch again this year," Morrow said. "I can't put a date on it. They just put together a calendar for me, which I haven't even seen. This is my fifth day throwing, so it's too early to say."
Morrow spent the past six weeks in Arizona, where he went through the very tedious process of trying to rebuild the strength in his index finger. Three days a week, Morrow would spend one to two hours at a clinic going through a series of monotonous exercises.
The 29-year-old would move a clothespin from one wire to another, re-live his youth with Play-Doh and practice various grips. The injury is so rare among his fellow athletes that instead of hanging around baseball players, Morrow spent most of his time with rock climbers and people who were suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.
All of the tiresome work was done with the goal of avoiding surgery. Morrow remains optimistic that the tendon will eventually heal on its own and he won't be forced to go under the knife. That won't be officially confirmed for at least a few more weeks, but if he does require surgery, then any chance of coming back this season will be lost.
"It can heal back," said Morrow, who suffered the injury during a start against the Indians on May 4. "That's what we're hoping for. If there was no chance of it doing that, I would have just had surgery that first week, but there's obviously a good chance of rehabbing it naturally, I guess, and avoiding surgery and being healthy and getting it back to the way I need it to be."
Morrow began throwing on Friday and made approximately 25 tosses from 45 feet. He repeated the process for the next three days before moving back to 60 feet on Tuesday. Morrow compared the level of intensity to a light game of catch, so it's clear he has a lot of work left to do.
The native of California wears a special brace on his finger to provide extra support and prevent any type of setback. The next step will be getting rid of the brace and replacing it with some sort of tape job. He can't use any of these methods while on the mound, but they will be crucial in letting him pass each test before then.
The longer Morrow goes without pitching, the longer it's going to take him to return. In some ways, it's almost like he'll be starting Spring Training all over again, and that doesn't exactly bode well for his return to the Blue Jays' starting rotation.
The original hope was that Morrow would be back at some point in July. That no longer seems realistic, but he insists a return this season is still the goal. Even the slightest setback would put that into jeopardy unless the Blue Jays are open to the idea of using him as a reliever, which would require a shorter rehab stint in the Minor Leagues.
Either way, if the Blue Jays maintain their current pace, Morrow could find himself thrown into the heat of a race for the postseason.
"That's what I'm looking to do, is to come in at a really crucial point in the season and be able to pitch the way that I have in the past and contribute and add something to the team," said Morrow, who has a career 4.28 ERA.
"That's really what you've got to use, there's nothing else to motivate you," he said. "When you look up, see we keep winning every day, it gives you a better chance at doing that. I don't think I've ever pitched in a pennant race, it was exciting, even for me, sitting at home watching our team win to put us in a really good spot."