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Morrow faces uphill battle for Padres rotation

Injuries, illness have right-hander 'a little bit further behind' in roster race
MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The last two spots in the Padres rotation are wide open heading into the Cactus League season, which begins Wednesday at Peoria Sports Complex against the Mariners. And one gets the sense that it's going to be a long road back for Brandon Morrow.

The right-hander missed the last five months of the 2015 season with shoulder problems that eventually led to arthroscopic cleanup surgery on Aug. 19. The comeback from that was compounded by the fact the he fell ill for much of the winter.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The last two spots in the Padres rotation are wide open heading into the Cactus League season, which begins Wednesday at Peoria Sports Complex against the Mariners. And one gets the sense that it's going to be a long road back for Brandon Morrow.

The right-hander missed the last five months of the 2015 season with shoulder problems that eventually led to arthroscopic cleanup surgery on Aug. 19. The comeback from that was compounded by the fact the he fell ill for much of the winter.

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Morrow signed a Minor League contract with a chance this spring to make the Padres, although new manager Andy Green said Sunday that he won't use him in any spring games for a while.

"He's little bit further behind. He's coming off some sickness this offseason," Green said. "We've built his progression a little slower than the others. He's been great in his bullpen sessions. He's probably about 75-85 percent right now. We're probably looking to get him integrated into games toward the middle of spring."

About the competition for those rotation spots, Green added: "There's quite a few guys in the mix right now. Everyone with a jersey on who's a starting pitcher has a shot at it."

But seriously, Colin Rae, Brandon Maurer, Robbie Erlin, Drew Pomeranz, Carlos Villanueva and Luis Perdomo are also in that mix. Erlin and Perdomo have been designated to pitch 1-2 against the Mariners on Wednesday.

"There's a lot to be sorted out," Green said. "It's not going to be sorted out on Feb. 28."

As far as Morrow is concerned, he says his motion feels free and easy for the first time in a year. Even when he was 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts through May 2, Morrow said he was pitching with an appreciable amount of pain. He tried a couple of rehab stints, but both times he couldn't get over the hump.

"I was trying to throw through it, I guess," said Morrow, who pitched his second spring bullpen session Sunday. "If it's still an amount of pain you can handle and still pitch well, then you're fine. In fact, that's what I was doing the first month. I was still in pain, but I was throwing well. I pitched up until my body couldn't basically take it any more."

Because of various injuries, Morrow hasn't pitched a complete season since making 30 starts for the Blue Jays in 2011. With only 11 starts over the past two seasons, and at age 31, he is definitely on the cusp.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.

San Diego Padres, Brandon Morrow