Morton Solid in Start, Plans to Be Ready for Season

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates (7-12)  lost 7-2 to the Detroit Tigers (14-3) at McKechnie Field on Friday afternoon.

Right-hander Charlie Morton tossed four scoreless frames scattering two hits and struck out two in his fourth official Grapefruit League start of the spring. Morton threw 55 pitches over his four inning outing. The two lone hits Morton gave up came in the first and third inning. Andy Dirks led off the 1st frame with a hit into shallow right field just out of reach of Neil Walker’s glove. In the 3rd, Gerald Laird leadoff the inning with a single into left field.

“The sinker had better life than it did previously,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “Even though he was getting some balls on the ground. The sinker action was there. He threw some nice curveballs today as well. Threw some cutters. I think it was a good day for him personally the four innings he was out there.”

“I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. I think that [catcher] Rod [Barajas] did a good job back there mixing everything up. For the most part I was throwing strikes. It was good,”Morton said. “Right before the game, [pitching coach] Ray [Searage] came up to me and said, ‘I got one thing for you: compete.’ Meaning throw everything out the window, throw mechanics, worrying about stuff out the window. Just go worry about throwing the ball. That’s what I tried to do.”

Morton, who had offseason surgery on his left hip, said he plans on being ready to start the fifth game of the season.

“I want the ball,” he said.

The right-hander is behind in the rotation due to recovering from the surgery itself. Although he has made four Grapefruit League starts, Morton has reached four innings and 55 pitches. Righty Jeff Karstens threw six innings and 89 pitches during his outing yesterday.

“I may be a game’s worth behind, which I’m hoping I can pick that up at the end of spring training. Get my pitch count up above 90,” Morton said. “I can’t go in there and say I want the ball tomorrow, or I want the ball in two days from now, give me the ball, I want 80 pitches. I can’t do that. If I could, I would.”

“The whole idea is to build up my arm strength within the perimeters of what we’ve been doing, what’s worked in the past, what we’ve done in the past. No one’s trying to push it past a certain limit. They’re going to look at say, how’s his arm strength? how’s his velocity? How’s the stuff coming out of his hand? And then go from there and make a decision. That’s what they’re doing week to week.”

The Pirates have two scheduled off days on April 6th and 9th to start the season. The club could get away without technically needing a fifth starter in the rotation and still give the guys regular rest until April 15th.

“We’re still having those talks,” Hurdle said. “They’re not on any timetable. We’re taking it really start to start. To get a bit of a read today was encouraging. Then he went out for four innings.”

“We’ve done it before. I’ve been in places where it’s been done before,” Hurdle said on possibly starting Morton in extended spring training. “We’re trying to consider what we need to do to take care of everybody. We’ll get reads on Charlie as he continues to pitch. He’s taking it week by week. We’re taking it start by start with him. Nothing definitive. We’re just trying to figure it out and make sense of it all as we move forward. We’ve got some options.”

“I haven’t been told anything,” Morton said. “I’ve been told I’m ahead of schedule from where they saw me from when I came down for spring training. But the whole time I’ve been saying I wanted to be ready to go the first day that I would be able to pitch.”

The Pirates two runs came with one out in the 2nd inning. Casey McGehee was hit by a pitch and first baseman Matt Hague, who is batting for a utility job this spring, took a 2-2 pitch from righty Doug Fister for a two-run homer to left. Hague has a team-leading four long balls this spring.

“When his front foot hits the ground, his hands are in a good hitting position,” Hurdle said on Hague’s swing at the plate. “When the front foot hits the ground, there’s not a good hitter alive that when he’s front foot hits the ground, his hands aren’t in a good firing position over his back leg. That’s the strongest position for every hitter. That’s where Matt gets to.”

“You just see a little bit of wiggle. You see a different variation with the barrel. You see more action than you might see from some guys, but he’s comfortable with it. It’s just kind of like a dog wagging his tail. Dog’s wag their tail with their hearts. He’s up there wagging his tail when that foot hits down and he’s ready to hit.”

Hague entered today’s action batting .448 (13-for-29), which is the highest average of any current Pirates players during Grapefruit League action (except Josh Harrison, who has nine fewer at-bats).

Joel Hanrahan came in for relief following Morton in the 5th and immediately allowed a solo home run to left field to the Tigers’ designated hitter Clete Thomas.

With a 2-1 lead heading into the 9th, right-hander Daniel McCutchen allowed five straight hits, which included a one-out grand slam to dead center. McCutchen, who prior to today’s game allowed just one earned run this spring, was charged with six runs over his two inning outing.

Game Notes: 

  • Relief: Joel Hanrahan: IP, H, R, K, HR; Chris Leroux: IP, H, K; Ryota Igarashi: IP, H, K; Daniel McCutchen: 2IP, 6H, 6R, BB, HR
  • Jose Tabata went 3-for-4; Andrew McCutchen extended his hitting streak to six games with a single in his second at bat; Matt Hague leads the team with four home runs and now has hit safely in four straight games and in six of his last eight.

Saturday Game Info:

  • The Pirates will face the Houston Astros at 1:05 at McKechnie Field. Right-hander James McDonald is scheduled to start for the Bucs against righty Kyle Weiland. Chris Resop, Ryota Igarashi and Daniel Moskos are scheduled to follow in relief.
Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Alvarez Sidelined with Knee Discomfort

Next Story »

Prospect Notebook: Morris Working On Cutter, Owens Looks Crisp

  • Brian Bernard

    I’d like to think Chuck is a must play for this rotation. He has never had a consistent season, but his ability to dominate at times is a rare skill for our starting group. I think he has to be considered for the 4th starter over Correia who seems to have lost his mojo – specifically the control he showed initially last year. Correia looks to be the 5, if not the long man in the pen IMO.

    • Lee Young

       I still think Correia is best suited for long relief. Besides, he is gone after this year, so what is the point of starting him? I’d still rather see Lincoln start

  • Kristy Robinson

    Morton would be higher in the rotation if it wasn’t for the offseason surgery and being behind this spring. 

Latest Analysis

  • Arquimedes Caminero

    Breaking Down the Final Pirates Roster Battles After Today’s Cuts

    1 day ago

    With less than a week remaining in camp, the Pittsburgh Pirates made their latest round of cuts this morning, sending three relievers to minor league camp, including ...

    Read More
  • Keller Supak Hinsz

    Even With the New Draft Rules, the Pirates Are Still Loading Up on Projectable Pitchers

    3 days ago

    From 2008-2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent a lot of resources on projectable pitchers out of high school. So far, this approach has led to breakout performances from ...

    Read More
  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    4 days ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    5 days ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    6 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    1 week ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    1 week ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    1 week ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    2 weeks ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    2 weeks ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles