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Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell, left, talks to players J.P. Arencibia and John McDonald after taking starting pitcher Kyle Drabek out of the game during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in a baseball game Thursday, May 5, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rays defeated the Blue Jays 3-1. (Chris O'Meara/AP)
Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell, left, talks to players J.P. Arencibia and John McDonald after taking starting pitcher Kyle Drabek out of the game during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in a baseball game Thursday, May 5, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rays defeated the Blue Jays 3-1. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

Jeff Blair

John Farrell's previous job guides his hand with Brandon Morrow Add to ...

Toronto never had the discussions about whether pitchers - let alone pitching coaches - can become major-league managers.

After all, Blue Jays manager John Farrell was such a breath of fresh air, coming in as he did after Cito Redux and at a time when the Maple Leafs and Raptors were pretty much abject, that to borrow a phrase from the late, great Joe Strummer: we were diggin' the new. Then came spring training, Jose Bautista, a little bit of small-ball and, well, love was in the air. Or, at least, on the basepaths.

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Like much baseball stuff, the under-representation of pitchers and pitching coaches in the managerial ranks is part hokum and reputation and weird science and shrugs. Suffice to say that there we were Tuesday night, with Farrell's former team, the Boston Red Sox, in town for a two-game series at the Rogers Centre, 24 hours after the first-year Blue Jays manager was placed in a delicate situation by Brandon Morrow's loss of effectiveness and then his loss of control. Morrow, who has the best pure stuff on the team, needed 31 pitches to get just one out in the fourth inning but was still tied 2-2 when Farrell removed him despite the bottom of the order due up. Morrow looked back to the mound as he walked off, dropped an invective, slammed his glove then sat seething as the Blue Jays bullpen imploded, and the result was a 10-5 loss and several questioning glances at the new skipper.

Farrell's explanation on Tuesday was the same as it was post-game: he detected Morrow's arm slot dropping and also saw a reduction in velocity, with two of Morrow's last three fastballs coming in at 90 miles an hour.

"You're looking at a 31-pitch inning with one out, a walk, a very hard line shot and a ball to the track in centre followed by a walk," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Tuesday. "So, if you look at an average five-pitch at-bat, which is 10 pitches for two more outs, that's 40 pitches and that's pretty scary if you ask me. If it was two outs? That's where it's a grey area. I think anyone would have done the same thing that John did."

Typically, the day-after storyline was the scene itself as much as the meaning behind it. Did Morrow drop an F-bomb? Who was it directed at? The pitch count wasn't shown on the board at that time, was it? So how could Morrow have been looking at it, hmm? Hmm? The glove slamming - twice! - was that directed at Farrell or the decision or the circumstance?

Then there was the misinformation: they said they didn't talk to each other after the game, then one of them said they did and all they did was just kind of joke. "We mentioned how you guys [the media]thought I'd said something to him," Morrow said. That sounds more than a little suspicious, does it not?

Farrell eventually tired of the path of questioning in his pre-game media session. Morrow had a forearm strain in spring training, and as Farrell said, "it's just natural that if a pitcher gets his arm in a different position it can cause stress on the shoulder." The consideration in making the move was, in Farrell's words, "Brandon Morrow, first and foremost."

Later, Farrell was asked whether it was the old pitching coach or first-year manager that made the call. "Oh sure, I look at him as if I was a pitching coach," Farrell said. "I would be foolish not to. When you start making decisions on replacing a guy, you have first-hand reference."

Farrell did not bite when asked if another manager - one who hadn't been a pitching coach - would have made the same call. He, John Farrell - manager John Farrell - was comfortable with the decision.

So was Anthopoulos, who said that when he talks to his manager, "We talk about positional things … advancing base runners. It never seems," he added, "to revert back to discussions about somebody's mechanics."

 

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