Two-point conversion: Tejeda vs. Morrow

Remember
when every ballplayer stuck to one position, when first basemen played first base exclusively, and the
only time people mentioned the word, “utilityman,” was in reference to someone working at the local hardware store?

Those
were the days.

 

Now,
the world’s gone mad with everyone playing everywhere. Even
the line between rotation and bullpen has been blurred.

 

Some
of today’s most prominent relievers came up as starters, from Jonathan Papelbon
to Jonathan Broxton to Kerry Wood.

 

Except
now, the opposite trend seems to be gaining steam, with teams growing increasingly
comfortable testing out relievers in the rotation.   

 

Last season, Justin Duchscherer emerged as Oakland’s
unlikely ace and one of the top surprise starters.

 

This past July, Jonathan Sanchez earned acclaim for his no-hit bid against the Padres, years after trying to bust onto the Giants’ 25-man roster as a reliever.

 

Some
will remember Adam Wainwright‘s promising run as fill-in closer during the Cardinals’ 2006 World Series run, before a rash of injuries and offseason losses forced
him back to the rotation for good. Now, he’s tied for the Major League lead in
wins with 18 (although much of his Minor League career was spent starting).

 

Does
the same bright future await the most recent pair of converts, Robinson Tejeda
and Brandon Morrow?

 

Morrow
thrived as Seattle’s part-time closer last season, but translating those skills to the rotation hasn’t been easy. Coming off an ’08 campaign in which he posted
sterling 3.34 ERA while snagging 10 saves, the power righty heads down the
final stretch looking for his second win, sitting at 1-4 with a 5.08 ERA.

 

Tejeda,
meanwhile, has become impossible to ignore after winning his third straight
start Sunday, an outing in which he held the White Sox to three hits and one
earned run over six innings. The Royals righty carries a staggering 0.81 ERA over
four big league starts this season. What began as a move of necessity for
Kansas City is turning into the opportunity of a lifetime for the well-traveled
27-year-old.

 

The
truth is that both Tejeda and Morrow served as Minor League starters at one
point or another, so their conversions could probably be best described as “re-conversions.”
Most relievers have started at one point or another in the Minors, including
Wainwright and Sanchez.

 

The
main difference is this: Morrow arrived in the Majors with far more expected of
him than Tejeda, and rightly so. While Morrow was selected fifth overall in the
2005 Draft, Tejeda first signed with the Phillies. Morrow has spent his entire
professional career with the Mariners, while Tejeda has been on three big league
clubs. Morrow starred as the California Golden Bears ace before zooming through
the Mariners farm system in three Minor League seasons, while it took Tejeda parts
of 11 Minor League seasons before making a name for himself.

 

That
doesn’t necessarily guarantee Morrow having a better Major League career than Tejeda.

 

But
it doesn’t hurt his chances.

 

Morrow
already features four pitches, including a fastball that routinely hits the
mid-90s along with a sharp mid-80s slider.

 

Tejeda
also throws a mid-90s heater, and his tally of 79 strikeouts over 64 2/3
innings only adds to his appeal.

 

Still,
while his recent success renders him the flavor of the month, the bottom line
is that Tejeda only throws three pitches. It’s hard to see how he sustains this
run, much less secures a spot in the Royals rotation, without adding another.

 

However,
the main hurdle preventing Morrow from taking off is time. Once he gets stretched
out as a starter, success is there waiting for him, flaws and all.

 

Conversion
or no conversion, Morrow is bound for rebirth.

 

 

–Alex Cushing,
MLB.com

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