Gaston agreed Morrow might have been affected by the layoff. But he wasn’t about to deviate from an organizational plan to protect its young pitchers from overwork.
“Sure, pitchers are like milk cows, you gotta milk them,” Gaston said, laughing. “But this kid is going to be a big part of our future, and we’re looking out for him. You might lose one tonight but you’ll win a lot more down the line.”
That’s what Cito Gaston had to say after the Oakland Athletics beat Brandon Morrow back on August 17. That, of course, was Morrow’s first start after his spectacular one-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The fact that Morrow had such a sub-par outing against the Oaklands and the fact that his velocity was down had a number of Jays fans worried that Cito had ruined Morrow by leaving him out to throw 137 pitches in pursuit of a no-hitter against the Rays.
This tidbit didn’t help calm the worry warts either:
That long layoff was welcomed by Morrow. He revealed in the days after the one hitter that he had trouble sleeping that night, and that he felt drained physically.
I’m no biology expert, but I do know a little about psychology. When you go through an exciting and nerve-racking experience — like I can only imagine being the verge of a no-hitter can be — you’re going to feel drained physically and likely have some trouble sleeping. Think about how you feel after, say, a job interview or some other stressful situation and multiply it by whatever factor performing in front of a huge audience adds. That’s a bit of stress there, so there’s a chance he had trouble sleeping because of the mental toll just as much, or maybe more than, the physical toll.
Anyway, back to Cito. I doubt a lot of the moves Gaston makes — jerking around Travis Snider being chief among the doubts — but Cito’s really proving that, if he likes you, he really knows how to treat you right.
Leaving Morrow out to finish the game against Tampa — for his first career complete game, I might add — even though he wasn’t gunning for a no-no anymore and his pitch count was well over 100? That’s got to do wonders for the confidence of a guy who’d been screwed around so much by his previous team that he never really had a chance to develop.
Standing behind Morrow after he pitches horribly in the next start and not even showing any doubt at all that the pitcher would be back to his regular self next time out? Again, the right thing to do.
Did it work? You betcha. Morrow dominated the Yankees on Monday night. Not only did he dominate, but he threw even harder than he did against Tampa.
All of Morrow’s pitches averaged one m.p.h. faster against the Yanks than they did against the Rays, except for the curveball, which was just over one m.p.h. slower. And Morrow racked up 12 Ks in 6 IP that night.
I’m not saying that Cito is totally responsible for Morrow pitching so well, but he’s doing something right. Morrow’s always been known as a guy with a ton of talent who’s had trouble harnessing it. Maybe the confidence Cito is showing in him is what’s helping him get over the hump.