It’s rare to see a guy throw off the mound during mini camp. Usually pitchers are just getting started back up after a short break over the holidays, and only throwing off flat grounds. That wasn’t the case today with Charlie Morton. The sinkerball pitcher wanted to get out on the mound today for the first time since having surgery back in September. He threw a short bullpen session with Ray Searage, Jim Benedict, and Euclides Rojas watching on. Here is video from that session.
Prior to the bullpen session, I noticed Morton had an unusual routine. He would stand with his back to the plate, then turn quickly and fire to the plate. I asked him about the routine after his bullpen session, and he mentioned that it’s a recent idea aimed at cleaning up and making more efficient the arm action in his delivery, based off his pickoff move.
“That’s just trying to clean up my arm action a little bit. Clean up the delivery. More efficient,” Morton said. “[Jim Benedict] saw some things in my pick move that he really liked, because he saw how quick and efficient I could be. And I think he felt that I could incorporate some of that into my actual delivery, where I’m not using as much of my body to throw a baseball. I think the mindset is that you make things more efficient and you avoid problems by doing that. It’s just that basic.”
The work between Morton and Benedict isn’t new. The two worked together prior to the 2011 season to overhaul Morton’s delivery, giving him a delivery that mirrored Roy Halladay, complete with a new body angle and a new approach to pitching. The latest idea is just a continuation of the process that Benedict and Morton have worked on for several years.
“It’s been kind of a process,” Morton said of their work. “Ever since Benny and I have met, he’s very thoughtful and very caring and he thinks a lot about the guys who work with him. And he’s always looking for ways to improve, and that’s just kind of been an evolution of my relationship with him. He’s always trying to help me get better. I’m sure that’s something he’s been thinking of for a long time.”
The key with Morton is his health. When healthy, he has looked great since the initial changes with Benedict. However, he has missed a lot of time with injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2012, and hip surgery in September that impacted him in the second half of the season. Even with the injuries included, he has combined for a 3.74 ERA in 495.1 innings from 2011-2014, along with a 6.3 K/9 and a 3.3 BB/9. It will be interesting to see whether Morton can continue to improve on those numbers with further adjustments, although the main goal will be keeping him healthy.