Brandon Morrow looked like a great addition to the Padres rotation before he hit the DL with a shoulder injury in early May. He went 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts before he was shut down and placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 5th (retroactive to May 3rd). All throughout May, Morrow remained without a timetable, but around the last week of the month he started getting active, throwing a bullpen session and simulated game, and finally getting scheduled for two rehab starts.
The first of those rehab starts took place on June 2nd and was about as successful as we could have hoped. Morrow threw 54 pitches in four scoreless innings for Double-A San Antonio. He gave up only two hits and a walk, though he didn't collect a strikeout. In his next rehab start he would be expected to toss 75-80 pitches.
Unfortunately, today didn't go as planned. Morrow was pulled from the game in the third inning after throwing only 49 pitches due to shoulder discomfort. Prior to his exit he had allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk in 2 2/3 frames against Northwest Arkansas.
Today's outing was expected to be Morrow's final tune-up before rejoining the team in San Diego to face the Dodgers this Friday. However, if this becomes more than just a brief setback and Morrow isn't ready in time, Odrisamer Despaigne will likely remain the Padres' 5th starter and take the mound against L.A. At the least, Morrow will need some more rest and possibly another rehab start or two before rejoining the major league club.
This isn't the first time Morrow has struggled with an injury, so it would be wise for the Padres to take every precaution to make sure he's at 100% before reactivating him and having him face Major League hitters. If Morrow does remain on the DL for a little while longer, that will give Buddy Black and co. some extra time to determine what exactly they'll do with him once he does return. Black told media last week that Despaigne or Ian Kennedy could possibly move to the bullpen to make way for Morrow in the rotation, or that they could put Morrow in the bullpen and keep the rotation as is.
Both Despaigne and Morrow have experience as relievers, though obviously Despaigne more recently. Despaigne has also had a few successful starts this season, but they were punctuated by ones in which he really struggled. Kennedy hasn't pitched in the bullpen before, but he's had trouble as a starter this season and the team could benefit from moving him to a relief role, at least briefly. Or they could take a page out of the Mets' book and experiment with a six-man rotation, though that seems the least likely of the team's options.
Hopefully this will in fact just be a small bump in the road for Morrow, who began his season with some promising and encouraging numbers.