Coming in to the Spring, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a battle for the 5th starter role between Charlie Morton, Scott Olsen, and Brad Lincoln. The battle was largely seen to be between Morton and Olsen, with Lincoln destined to return to AAA to work on his changeup.
About a month ago, Scott Olsen went down with a hamstring injury, and while he’s currently rehabbing, he has yet to pitch an inning in Spring Training. Meanwhile, Charlie Morton has pitched three times, combining for eight innings. In those eight innings, Morton has a 2.25 ERA, and a 3:1 K/BB ratio.
Spring Training stats largely don’t matter, mostly because they are a small sample size, but also because different players face different levels of talent. Morton has been starting games, which puts him up against the better talent, but it’s still a small sample size. There has been talk about how Morton has returned to throwing his sinker, which was the explanation for his struggles last year.
Ignoring the stats, and ignoring the analysis on the sinker, the fact is that Morton has actually pitched this year, while Olsen has yet to throw in a game. There’s a little less than three weeks remaining in Spring Training. Even if Olsen returned tomorrow, he could maybe make 3-4 starts, getting about 8-10 innings. That’s not nearly enough to be ready to start the season in the rotation.
Nothing has been officially announced, but at this point it would be hard to imagine anyone other than Morton in the fifth spot in the rotation. Olsen still has enough time to make the majors as a bullpen arm, although that could cause some potential problems.