Charlie Morton was originally scheduled to throw a rehab game tonight in Bradenton. Instead, that outing was changed to have Morton throw in extended Spring Training at Pirate City. The move was made to give a more controlled environment, where Morton was guaranteed more pitches and more ups and downs.

Extended Spring Training is very relaxed, allowing pitchers to end innings early if the pitch count is too high, or throw to extra batters if the count is too low. Regardless of how many outs they get in an inning, they can go back out the following inning for more work. Had Morton gone to Bradenton and had a 30+ pitch inning, that would have been the end of his outing. Or, the more likely scenario, since he would be facing A-ball hitters, would be short innings where he didn’t get his pitch count up, followed by finishing off his pitches in the bullpen, which doesn’t help his goal of carrying his mechanics into a live game.

“The intensity for me would probably be similar,” Morton said of the difference between extended Spring Training and High-A. “Getting under the lights against more seasoned hitters would be good, but honestly I think I’d get the same thing out of it.”

There were probably other factors involved, such as the fact that a lot of coaches were at Pirate City already (including Jim Benedict) and the Bradenton game was three hours away. Morton ended up throwing 93 pitches in six innings, giving up a run on four hits and two walks, with six strikeouts. After the game he said he felt like he was built up pretty well, and that he’s going through the challenge of maintaining his mechanics in the game.

As I wrote last week, Morton is trying to get back to the mechanics that worked so well for him in 2013 and at the start of the 2014 season. Those mechanics were thrown off by a hip injury he had last year.

“I was moving laterally a lot. I was moving towards the third base line,” Morton said of his mechanical problems. “And that was forcing me to open up my front side. That was a result of pitching through a core injury and a hip injury last year. Just trying to alleviate some of the pain every time I threw. So I started moving laterally, instead of moving toward home plate, which made it hurt even more.”

Morton said that this was exposed in Spring Training. His pitches were flat, with his sinker running a lot and not sinking, and the curveball moving laterally with not a lot of drop. That has changed after his time in extended Spring Training. An NL scout who watched him today said that the sinker looked great, but that the curve could still use some work to be sharper. The best news was that Morton said he’s got no issues pitching the way he needs to pitch.

 

 

“To know I can go downhill, be aggressive, and there be no pain there, that’s a big deal,” Morton said. He added that there was no pain during Spring Training, but that he was using his body the wrong way.

There’s no word yet on the next steps for Morton. He threw six innings at the start of the week, and is up to 93 pitches, so he’s close from the standpoint of being stretched out. The big question now is whether his mechanics are ready. I’m guessing he’ll get a start or two in the upper levels of the minors to give the mechanics a decent test before he returns to the majors.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. pb: It was bad enough, but when you have a leadoff double in extra innings and the pitcher due up, you need to go to the bench and the only bench player we have who can execute a bunt (Rodriguez) has already been used. Kang and Lambo are power hopefuls not adept at the bunt and run game if the Manager chooses to sacrifice the runner to 3rd. That’s the play for a team struggling to score runs. We already had Hart and Rodriguez, and won the rights to sign Kang. I suggested the other day that it may be time to bring up Steve Lombardozzi and send Andrew Lambo back to AAA to get some steady reps. Less power, but a switchhitter with possibly a better situation-type game, and who is hitting .370+ at AAA.

    The second extra inning loss where our one inning relievers were pitching in their 2nd innings of work when the winning run was scored. And, Melancon was available but not used in either game?

    Look for Charlie Morton sometime in June (just like in 2013). No reason to rush at this point.

    • Lombardozzi isn’t the type of guy to change a game with power, but he’s more than competent at doing the little things like bunting, hitting behind runners and making contact when needed. Good call, given Decker is unavailable.

      • bucs: Even if the Pirates break out of this scoring slump, I think the team needs to look for another hitting coach and somebody who may be able assist in the development and implementation of a system-wide approach to hitting. The Cardinals have some independent hitters and always have, but when they get two strikes down in a contact situation, they tend to look middle to outer third and hitting straight out, emphasizing contact. It is not rocket science!

        Did Greg Ritchie leave on good terms? He worked with many of these kids in the minors and then in his 2 years as the Pirate hitting coach. Just a thought.

  2. Hope for chuck’s sake he gets it figured out I mean this is only his fourth time going through this so you would think he would have it down pat by now. On a side note that game today was painful I mean really 12 hits and 18 left on base and the kicker was every time someone got on base the pirates started swinging for the fences, the cards are a pretty smart bunch who knew the pirates would do that and pitched them accordingly. C’mon bucs shuffle the deck and try a different approach every so often to at least keep the other team honest.

    • Lots of frustrating losses this season to Reds, Cubs and Cards, but none worse than yesterday. The Cardinals are very fortunate to have won either one of these games. Hopefully Pirates can get it going today vs Wacha.

      • Remember the game against chicago when with a man on pedoo slapped the ball to the left side and the pirates went on to have a six run inning? I thought to myself, hey the bucs have finally figured out to just take what the pitcher gives them. They had defensive swings with two strikes and looked to make contact ect. alas since then it has been more I’m gonna win the game with a four run one run homer. The only team I see who have really figured out post steroid baseball are the kc royals the pirates pride themselves in being ahead of the curve so I suggest they take a cue from the royals.

    • To put this in perspective, there has been a .400 hitter more recently (1941) in MLB history than a game where 18 men were LOB (1940).

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