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Jays pitcher Morrow will start season on DL

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow throws a pitch during intrasquad baseball action at spring training in Dunedin, Fla., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2011.

Nathan Denette

This was not the way the Toronto Blue Jays wanted to monitor Brandon Morrow's innings count.

Morrow, who was 10-7 (4.49) last season and was expected to be the Blue Jays No. starter, will be on the 15-day disabled list when Opening Day rolls around after being diagnosed with a right forearm strain.

The Blue Jays made the announcement Wednesday, after Morrow experienced discomfort throwing his change-up in a bullpen session. An MRI examination revealed inflammation in the forearm.

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More specifically, Morrow pointed to his elbow when asked where the discomfort was located. "The flexor," he said.

As a result, the Blue Jays rotation coming out of spring training will be Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil, Jo-Jo Reyes and Jesse Litsch. General manager Alex Anthopoulos said to read nothing into the order other than it was done to keep the pitchers on their regular routines as much as possible.

"Brandon was in there (the Blue Jays office) making his case, but it's one of those things where we'll be extra cautious," said Anthopoulos.

"We're talking about him missing a start. He really is adamant he is ready to go and we said: 'That's fine, we understand it.' But we decided to take the more cautious approach. We didn't plan on having him throw 220 innings this year anyway. So, we took the decision out of his hands."

Morrow has the best pure stuff of any Blue Jays starter. Last season, in his first full year as a starter, he was placed on an innings limit by the Blue Jays and struck out 178 batters in 146 innings pitched. The Blue Jays' arm management program called for what Anthopoulos said was a "soft 20 per-cent increase" in Morrow's innings this year - a total that could rise depending on his ability to become more economical with his pitches.

The 15-day DL doesn't come into effect until the 25-man rosters are set on Opening Day. But Morrow can be backdated.

Morrow said he felt "a little tightness" after his bullpen session.

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"It sucks," he said. "I didn't think it had to be a DL stint. It feels fine right now but that's not what they're going off of; they're going off of the MRI."

The team also announced Wednesday it returned Brett Lawrie, the native of Burnaby, B.C., to their minor league camp.

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