TORONTO - The Blue Jays and Brandon Morrow have set a mid-October deadline for a final decision on how to deal with the entrapped radial nerve in the pitcher's forearm.
"I'm halfway through my no-throwing, now," said Morrow of his six-week shutdown period. "Then I'll rehab it, start strengthening it and then start throwing. I haven't been doing anything below the elbow. They've been working on the nerve in my neck and shoulder just to work on it up top just to give it more slack down below."
Morrow was prescribed the six weeks of rest by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. He's visiting Toronto to confer with Blue Jays' doctors and will remain with the club through its series in Phoenix next week. He's been rehabbing near his home in Scottsdale, Arizona and will resume doing so when the team departs for Minneapolis.
By mid-October, Morrow plans to be up on a mound and airing it out. There is to be no guesswork with the final decision.
The problem is, with such a rare injury, there was some guesswork with the diagnosis. Andrews ruled out all other possibilities after an MRI and other extensive tests turned up nothing. Nerve problems don't show on scans.
"They can't pinpoint exactly, you know I've had scans and pictures and I had an EMG where they stick a bunch of needles in your arm and get little electrical readings and that still doesn't tell you exactly where it is," said Morrow. "They don't know until they open up and I think even when they do open it up they release the whole nerve, not just a very specific point."
It's a procedure Morrow is hoping to avoid. However, he says the recovery time from such a surgery would be three months, making him available for the start of spring training in mid-February.
"That's why that date (mid-October) is picked," said Morrow.
Morrow's last start was on May 28 against the Braves. He says he first felt pain in his forearm in the start prior, on May 23 versus Baltimore. Morrow knew he was in trouble when he threw a bullpen session in Atlanta on May 30.
Early into his stint on the disabled list Morrow made one rehab appearance, for Single-A Dunedin, on June 17. He didn't feel right.
"I don't know if it made it worse in the long run," said Morrow of pitching through the pain. "I would be a little bit sore but serviceable, able to play catch every day and feel all right. Long toss, no real problems but when I tried to amp it up and get off the mound, the extra five or 10-percent of effort level makes a big difference."
It's been an agitating summer and a lost season in a profession with an already limited window.
Morrow is frustrated by the experience.
"It's been tough," said Morrow. "Tough for me to watch, to even turn on a game. To even watch games, you feel like you're the sick kid during winter and watching all your friends sled outside and you're at the window like, why can't I join?"
Brett Cecil returned and pitched one-third of an inning on Friday after missing the Yankees' series with a tired shoulder. He needed the rest.
"Just really had fatigue," said Cecil. "There was never really pain. Just tightness and a fatigue feeling."
Cecil wasn't panicked. Having broken the growth plate in his left elbow, while throwing a pitch, when he was 13 years old, Cecil says he knows the difference between troublesome pain and working through typical pitchers' soreness.
Through Thursday, Cecil had appeared in 56 of the Blue Jays' 134 games. He'd thrown 59 1/3 innings, striking out 69 batters.
What often isn't considered is aside from the appearances, relievers also apply strain on their arms during games in which they warm up but don't ultimately pitch.
"It takes a toll," said Cecil. "I know the coaches, the manager and us in the bullpen wish there was some way we could avoid a lot of that but there's really nothing you can do."
EMILIO "SMITH" RETURNS TO TORONTO
Emilio Bonifacio had a good laugh at the nameplate above his locker in the visitor's clubhouse.
He walked in, looked up and saw EMILIO SMITH.
He knew the culprit.
"That's coming from Buehrle," said Bonifacio. "One day I was saying, maybe I've got to change my name so that I can play for when I was there. I said, Smith or something, so that day against Houston I pinch hit and I got a double so when I scored he said that's going to be your name."
Entering play Friday, Bonifacio had a slash line of .283/.377/.358 in 15 games with Kansas City.
In 94 games with the Blue Jays, Bonifacio hit .218/.258/.321.
What's the difference?
"I've been playing more," said Bonifacio. "I've got more time and they've given me the opportunity to get my timing back. That's the main thing. I have my timing, I feel pretty good at the plate."
Bonifacio has no regrets about his time in Toronto.
"I gave 100 percent there every time they needed me," he said. "I understand the situation we had. They were looking for someone who could help the team and we were losing."