TORONTO -- Had an oblique injury not cost Brandon Morrow over two months of his season in the middle of the year, he may have been looking at his first All-Star Game selection.
Moreover, he could have put his name in the American League Cy Young discussion.
In two starts since returning from the disabled list, Morrow has allowed three earned runs over 11 1/3 innings, while walking two and striking out 12.
For the season, he sits at 8-5 with a stingy 2.93 ERA. In those eight victories, the right-hander has allowed just four runs -- good for a 0.64 ERA -- and 38 hits. His three shutouts are tied for second most in the Majors behind only Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.
His evolution as a pitcher has been on full display this season, and manager John Farrell believes the crispness of his secondary offerings, to complement his mid-to-upper 90s fastball, has been the key.
"The feel of his curveball and the consistent execution of it, which was more evident [on Friday] than his start in Baltimore [his first start back from the DL]," Farrell said when asked what the biggest difference in Morrow was from last season. "He spent a lot of time on that in Spring Training, and has reaped the rewards from the emphasis on that.
"He's always had the ability to spin a baseball."
Farrell also feels that he is doing a much better job holding runners on, which in turn has prevented baserunners from reaching scoring position on him.
"He's reduced his unloading time by two- to three-tenths of a second, which, as it relates to controlling basestealers, that's a huge difference," Farrell said.
The skipper went on to say he believes Morrow is more comfortable since he signed a multiyear deal and has some security for the first time in his career. The Blue Jays re-signed Morrow to a three-year deal, with an option for a fourth, worth $20 million in January.
He appears to be showing that level of comfort as he continues his breakout campaign.
Among AL pitchers who have thrown at least 80 innings this year, Morrow ranks third in opponents' on-base percentage (.270), fifth in OPS (.617) and sixth in slugging (.348), while his .209 batting average against is tops in the league. The types of names ahead of him in those categories are aces Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, David Price and Hernandez.
The Blue Jays will need help in their rotation next season. But they should feel content knowing they have a No. 1-caliber starter and ace in Morrow.
Cecil slated for bullpen duty upon return
TORONTO -- Manager John Farrell doesn't expect to get any September callups from the Las Vegas 51s, Toronto's Triple-A affiliate, until Tuesday.
The 51s' season ends on Sept. 3, and the plan is to let the players finish their season with Vegas before joining the Blue Jays for the final month of the season. One of those players will be left-hander Brett Cecil.
But he will be pitching in a different capacity than he was before.
Cecil, who made nine starts with Toronto and has been in Vegas' rotation, will pitch out of the bullpen upon his return.
He could potentially turn into a lefty specialist.
"His splits have always been good. We will never rule out him being able to start again, but right now some other guys have gone ahead of him from the starting rotation standpoint," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.
"We might find something there out of the 'pen... He's still been able to get swings and misses and get some strikeouts against left-handers. That's something we will definitely keep an eye on the next month."
Over his four-year career, Cecil has held lefties to a .230 batting average and .654 OPS, compared to a .289 average and .848 OPS versus right-handers.
Cecil was a reliever and closer at the University of Maryland before playing professional baseball. Farrell thinks that will help his transition to the bullpen.
The 26-year-old is out of Minor League options after this season, so his future with the Blue Jays could be in doubt.
Farrell: Home-plate collisions part of the game
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays won Friday's contest against the Rays in dramatic fashion.
Right fielder Moises Sierra threw a bullet to the plate to nail pinch-runner Elliot Johnson for the final out of the game.
Johnson barreled into catcher Jeff Mathis, but the backstop was able to hold on to the ball to secure the victory. It was Johnson who actually took the brunt of the hit, as he walked away with several abrasions to his face, hands and knee.
Much has been made recently about home-plate collisions after Giants catcher Buster Posey was run over last year and sidelined for the remainder of the season with a broken leg. Some people have argued that they should be eliminated from the game.
Manager John Farrell was asked for his thoughts on home-plate collisions. Although he respects others' opinions, he ultimately feels that it is simply part of the game.
"A collision at home plate is very much part of this game," Farrell said. "Some people might take exception if certain plays at the plate might be judged as maybe not the cleanest slides or if a catcher is exposed in certain ways. But a catcher has full gear on.
"It's an exciting play, and there is a lot of time and technique taught to catchers [on] how to block the plate and reduce the potential of injury."
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.