If the Blue Jays, in 2014, are going to be the team they expected to be in 2013, there is a long laundry list of things that have to go right.

Right at the top of that list is the performance of Brandon Morrow. He knows it and the Blue Jays know it.

“He’s going to be big for us,” said manager John Gibbons. “There is no limit to how good he can be.”

Morrow is already working on the “big” theme. He’s added about 10 pounds of muscle from where he was at the end of last season and about 25 pounds more than he had on his 6-foot-3 frame when he reported to spring training a year ago. Morrow says he didn’t set out to get larger but once he noticed a few extra pounds after starting his off-season fitness program, he went after it.

“I didn’t really plan on adding any extra weight but I saw a couple of extra pounds and got a little excited and consciously started trying to gain,” he said after tossing a 35-pitch bullpen side session Friday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

“I started taking in an extra protein shake with breakfast, then having a snack — like scrambled eggs — after working out. I figured that I wanted to keep it rolling and bumped the weight up in the weight room.”

When he steps on the scales Sunday for his pre-spring training medical along with all the other pitchers and catchers, he’ll weigh in at about 215 pounds, bulkier than he has ever been.

“In the past, I’ve always come into camp light and put on some pounds. Last year I was even lighter than usual (about 190 pounds), so I’m 25 pounds heavier this year but only about 10 pounds more than my normal weight of about 205. We’ll see what it means, if anything.

“It’s not a big deal and I don’t know that it’s going to make a lot of difference. I don’t want people to make too big a thing out of it.

“I feel stronger and that can’t hurt. As far as stamina goes, I’ve never felt tired during the game, in my legs or back or anything like that. I’ve felt tight, or sore or whatever but I’ve never felt fatigued.”

As a diabetic, Morrow always has to monitor his food intake very closely under any circumstances. To successfully add productive muscle is even trickier.

“In order to gain good weight, you really have to manage your blood sugar,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to metabolize all that food correctly. That’s the big thing.”

Morrow made only 10 starts in 2013. By the end of May he was on the sidelines trying to overcome what was described as a forearm strain. It took months before doctors were able to diagnose the problem as a entrapped radial nerve in his pitching arm, a condition that eventually healed itself with enforced rest.

“As I’ve said, I was halfway through my second-last start against the Orioles and started feeling a little sore and it continued in my next start against Atlanta,” he recalled.

“If you can’t compete, what are you going to do? I’m not going out there and throw 82 (m.p.h.). Not that guys can’t be successful like that but that’s not who I am and that’s not going to help the team at all.”

As far as he is concerned, that injury is behind him now. He went through an offseason throwing program without any residual pain.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I wasn’t sore one day through my whole throwing program since I took all that time off. Through the fall I was throwing three sets of 15 pitches with rests in between to simulate innings, throwing pretty much as hard as I could, and didn’t feel anything.

“I’ve been ready to come back for months. When you have all that time away — two months at home and then another two months down here rehabbing — it’s almost like I didn’t have a season last year. I was hurt more than I played.”

Morrow’s loss, along with the collapse of Josh Johnson, were crippling blows to a starting rotation that really never did recover. From afar, Morrow agonized over the team’s plight, helpless to do anything about it.

“It’s awful,” he said, “especially when the team is struggling and you feel like you’re a big part of that, unfortunately.”

Now, six weeks away from Opening Day, the Jays are going to try to rise from the ashes, with Morrow positioned to be a redemptive key. They will go not one step down that path without a thriving, productive starting staff.