A return to form

The Blue Jays finally received some positive news on the injury front for the first time in arguably more than two months. No. 1 starter Brandon Morrow re-joined the team for the first time since early June following a prolonged absence with a strained left oblique while Jose Bautista also found his way back after missing a significant amount of time with an injured left wrist.

On the main site, you’ll find my article on the return of both players plus the demotion of left-hander Aaron Laffey to the bullpen to accommodate Morrow. Below, you’ll also find the transcripts of today’s media scrums with Bautista/Morrow plus a portion of today’s conversation with manager John Farrell.

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB where I’m posting daily updates on the team.

Brandon Morrow:

On being back…
“Great. I mean, it has been a lot longer than I would have hoped but it was one of those injuries that you had to play it by ear until you’re feeling good and strong. I’m feeling good and strong now, got all my work in during my rehab assignment and I’m ready to go.”

On length of time…
“We knew that from Day 1 that it wasn’t going to be something that I would be able to come back from fairly quickly. Guys have gone through it before and it’s one of those things where it’s best kind of slow played because you can feel okay and do it again, it’s one of those things you have to make sure it’s completely out.”

On all the club’s injuries…
“It has been tough. The injuries where on you on the field and in the clubhouse mentally. It’s tough when your big bats are going down, guys in the rotation are going down and you start to scuffle a little bit. It must have been tough.”

When did you start feeling like yourself…
“I felt good from my first one out. I really didn’t miss a beat, I think mechancially or with my arm. That’s the good thing with not being an arm injury I was able to at least keep the feel of the baseball even that sort of things even if I was throwing gingerly, at least having the ball in my hand and doing that. Getting the feel back didn’t really take long at all it was just getting to that point where I felt like I could really push myself.”

Maintained your stuff as innings increased?
“I was happy with my stuff throughout the whole process. I threw all of my pitches in all of my outings with success in all of them pretty much.”

How close to old form?
“I hope to be close to it. I felt good command wise with all of my pitches and I’ve stayed in the zone, I haven’t been walking guys, getting quick outs and staying economical with my pitches. That actually hurt me a little bit through the process going too quick through my innings. But I’ve been feeling really good.”

On being away…
“It was pretty tough. Not being around that’s what wears on you the most, watching the team struggling and more guys going down. It was tough being out. I probably didn’t watch as much as most people would think, it’s hard to sit and watch the games when you’re not there and do all of that but I was pulling for the guys.”

Tough for you to watch?
“On and off. I watched on and off. Probably more at the beginning. Then of course when I went on my rehab I was with a team and trying to be a team guy and watching their games, sitting in the dugout and stuff. But, yeah, just knowing what they’re going through with guys going down and some of the guys struggling and watching them, wishing I could be here to help out on the field and then also playing catch or whatever, just talking and stuff.”

Consolation that it wasn’t an arm injury?
“You can’t really think about it like that. I don’t want to say a fluke injury, but something that you don’t really plan for. Arm injuries, not always, but you feel it kind of creeping up on you, at least in my experience it has gotten progressively worse over a week and then you have to shut it down for a few days but this is obviously different on one pitch, pulling it or whatever.”

Ever seen injury woes like this team?
“Not in that timespan, within four or five days I guess. It’s crazy how that happened and then Jose not too long after that, Colby being hurt. J.P. Lawrie too. I’m forgetting because I wasn’t even here. I was already gone from Florida when those guys got down there.”

Jose Bautista:

On being out…
“I missed it every single day and it makes you appreciate what you have.”

“All I can do is (try) to help the team win games. I don’t look at myself as ‘that guy’ who’s going to make the team better or worse. We have a capable group and I just hope I can bring something to the table to contribute.

On being a leader while club struggles…
“We’re a bunch of grownups here and nobody is going to feel sorry for us. As a group, everybody is dealing with it in their own way. When you have years like this with so many guys hurt, it kind of makes the team more unified. We’re dealing with and trying to put forward the best effort.”

Two home runs in final rehab game…
“Anytime you do something good at the plate and you help score some runs, you feel great. I do realize that it’s a different level of baseball, but it’s not to say I was facing Little Leaguers, either. For the most part I went down there just to see some pitches before I showed up here and to try to test out my wrist.

On toughest thing about prolonged absence…
“Just being away from the game and getting back in the mix and you can’t really mimic it until you’re playing at this level. Physically I’m capable and I know I am healthy. But being successful, it’s a flip of a coin. Hopefully I can get right back into the mix and start contributing from day one, but I don’t know. I might need a couple of days.”

How difficult to sit back?
“It’s hard because you can’t contribute and you want to be out there. But there’s nothing you can control. You know you’re hurt and you can’t push it and try to play when you’re hurt. All you can do is wait.”

Something you’ll need to monitor the rest of the year?
“Of course. Anytime, even if you pull a hamstring, you have to monitor it when you come back. We have a little bit over a month left. I’ll be listening to my body. If it tells me I need a day off, I need to calm down for a couple of days and I’ll do that.”

Peace of mind after hitting the two homers?
“No, because I did it at a different level, which has nothing to do with big-league pitching. All it tells me is that if I’m ready to hit, when I go up to the plate with a good game plan and see my pitch that I’ll be good.”

Back everyday or will you need some days off…
“I don’t see a reason why I should take mandatory days off but, like said, if my body tells me I need a day off, I’m going to take a day off.”

Frustrating to sit out while the club was struggling so much offensively?
“It’s equally frustrating as if I was on the field. I know that everybody is trying and we’re all trying to help the team wins games and score runs. Some things you just can’t control in baseball. That’s the beauty and the hardest thing about the game at the same time. I don’t want to seem as if I’m sitting on the outside critiquing the guys that are playing because I know they’re trying their hardest and they’re all capable guys.”

John Farrell:

On Bautista being back…
“It’s a good day for us, for the organization, the fact that Jose’s back. Even after a brief rehab assignment, obviously what he did last night. Obviously the timing was there last night. We’re certainly looking forward to his presence in the lineup today.”

What does his presence mean to the team?
“A lot. To be put numerically, I don’t know that you can do that. It’s one of those things; when teams lose one of their main guys it creates a void not only of what their offensive production is or what they can do on defence, but the effect on people around them, whether it’s in the lineup or in the clubhouse or in the dugout. Like I said, it’s a good day for us. Glad he’s back with us.”

On Bautista’s impact…
“Well, there’s four at-bats tonight where we didn’t have him. So hopefully that’s enough of a change in and of itself. Clearly when you are able to add a middle-of-the-order bat back into the lineup, it gives us a chance to make it a little deeper. We’re still missing a couple guys and it’s been evident. We’ve had our struggles offensively over the last three to four weeks. So to add his back bat – that’s not to say we’re expecting him to come back and hit two home runs tonight or anything like that. Just his mere presence will have a positive impact.”

Does his presence take pressure off younger guys?
“Time will tell that, how he’s pitched to. The in-game things will probably have as much of a tell-tale of that as anything else. I know that preparing for him and the lineup he was in before … when you have Bautista in the lineup when you get it across the field it means a hell of a lot more than when it’s not in the lineup. We’ll see, and like I said: I think we have to be realistic. He’s missed five weeks, he’s had 12, 14 at-bats before coming back. He feels good … so he’s going to be in the lineup, so we’ll see how things unfold.”

On Morrow being back too…
“We’ve got him on an 85-95 pitch limit. That’s what he’s up to in the rehab starts he’s made. Jose, losing him created a hole in our lineup. Losing Brandon in our rotation created another one. He was really pitching very well, efficiently, he had thrown three shutouts for the time being he was here, and really started to come into his own. We thought that was going to be the case at spring training and that was playing out this year. Having missed him for the last two-and-a-half months has been a huge hole in our rotation.”

On Laffey going to the bullpen…
“We’ll continue to reevaluate things for the next time through the rotation, if his insertion back into the rotation is needed … Aaron knows this. At the same time we’re probably leaning towards a six-man rotation, so his presence in the bullpen is for a defined period of time and we look to go to that six-man rotation in September.”

On discovery of Aaron Loup…
“In all situations, whether it’s been game on the line, final inning of a game, meat of the order, middle of the order-type of power bats. I thought the at-bat to Boesch was probably a snapshot of what he’s been capable of doing – the need to make a key pitch – 3-2 count, first and second and he spots up a 91-mile-an-hour fastball down and away from a very difficult angle for a left-hander to battle against. He’s done an outstanding job. We’ve talked about his mound presence, his calmness, all those things are evident. And he hasn’t had that huge swing of, ‘Well, you know it’s first-year nerves…’ He’s been, in a very short period, he’s been very reliable.”

Coming from far off the map…
“It just shows you that bullpens can be built and relievers can come from really anywhere. In this case, yeah, he was never really in the main discussion for planning this past offseason, but he’s thrust himself right in the middle of it.”

Bautista’s immediate results in rehab stint, provide peace of mind to him?
“I’d have to say, ‘Yes,’ because if the reverse was there – they’d come without that recent performance, particularly driving the ball like he did – there might be more the feeling that we’ve got to work back into it. Hopefully he hits two balls out of the ballpark tonight, but I think he left there knowing, ‘You know what, my wrist feels good – or my forearm.’ He drove some balls. He swung-and-missed too, which is another tell-tale sign, if that has any indication of being discomfort, it might show up more in a pitch where they swing and miss. So I think some of that has been erased from his mind. But as far as the timing goes, yeah, he comes here with a couple of real positive days behind him.”

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