NEW YORK -- The past 15 months have marked a long and tumultuous road back to the Padres for veteran right-hander Brandon Morrow. On Saturday in New York, he finally completed it.
Morrow exited his May 2, 2015, start with a shoulder injury, and he wouldn't pitch again until a scoreless eighth during the Padres' 3-2 loss to the Mets in 11 innings on Saturday night. The 32-year-old had his contract selected by the Padres before Saturday's game, and he will serve in a bullpen role, which should ease the strain on his surgically repaired shoulder.
With the Padres trailing, 2-1, in the eighth, Morrow was called upon to face the heart of the Mets' lineup, and he retired the side in order. That included a very impressive play on Neil Walker's bunt attempt, in which Morrow sprung off the mound and delivered an off-balance strike to first base.
"It's been challenging at times," Morrow said. "It definitely went slower than I thought it would coming into spring. … I'm feeling good now, everything has progressed nicely since I've cut down the innings and had some consistent work. I threw well in Triple-A and El Paso, and I'm standing here now, so it all worked out the way it was supposed to."
To clear room on the roster for Morrow, the Padres optioned left-hander Buddy Baumann to Triple-A El Paso. With a full 40-man roster, they also needed to clear space for Morrow, and to do so, they transferred Cory Spangenberg (strained left quad) to the 60-day disabled list. It remains unlikely that Spangenberg plays again this season.
For the first month of last season, Morrow was arguably the Padres' best pitcher, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in five starts. He then hit the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, before feeling further discomfort during a June rehab start. The Padres shut him down then, and he underwent debridement surgery in August.
"He's been through a lot in his career," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He's battled through a lot of different injuries at different points in time. To work his way back here -- it's big for him."
Morrow re-signed as a Minor League free agent this spring, but his attempts to return as a starter continually hit snags. He transitioned to a bullpen role and posted a 5.73 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11 relief innings for El Paso. Since moving to the 'pen, Morrow has abandoned his curveball -- always his fourth-best pitch -- but he'll continue to throw his fastball, slider and splitter with regular frequency.
For the remainder of the season, Morrow will fill a relief role, but he says he's open to a potential transition back to a starting job in 2017.
"I would never rule anything out," Morrow said. "I mean, not this year, there's obviously not time for that. But next year, who knows. I've tried not to think about it too much. There's obviously no reason to start discussing next year's plans now when I have a month-and-a-half to focus on what I'm doing this year."
This marks Morrow's 10th season in the Majors, the first eight of which came with Seattle and Toronto. He owns a 4.22 career ERA over 236 appearances, including 113 starts.
As for Baumann, he was sharp in his first six outings, but he allowed three runs without recording an out Friday night against the Mets. In total, the rookie southpaw has surrendered four earned runs over 5 1/3 innings while striking out seven.
Tyson Ross threw a 46-pitch bullpen session before Saturday's game, with one break in the middle. He's slated to throw his first live batting-practice session on Tuesday in Tampa Bay.
Ross, who hasn't pitched since Opening Day because of inflammation in his pitching shoulder, was slated for a live BP session last month. But he had a setback when he twisted his ankle in his hotel room.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.