With two clean innings and no pain in his hip in the books already this spring, right-hander Charlie Morton is one step further along on the comeback trail – something the Pittsburgh Pirates need to take home a division title this season.
In Thursday’s loss to the New York Yankees, Morton tossed a pair of innings in which he allowed just two base hits – although he issued two free passes in the process. More importantly, he told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he felt no pain after the outing.
The right-hander is working back from offseason hip surgery (as noted above) – and is looking to contribute to a pitching staff that already boasts Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett and Vance Worley. This group also leaves out left-hander Jeff Locke, who has fallen out of favor with most Bucs fans (for whatever reason).
Morton made 26 appearances for Pittsburgh last season, pitching to a 3.72 earned run average – which was exactly on-par with his 3.72 FIP, a promising sign moving forward. The Pirates aren’t looking for a front-end starter out of the former third-round pick of the Atlanta Braves; but if he can be a solid back-end arm in 2015, the rotation looks a lot more appealing.
With the depth that the team boasts in terms of starting pitching, it’s not hard to fathom a six-man starting rotation this season. With Liriano, Cole, Locke, Burnett, Worley and Morton, the Pirates have six quality candidates for the starting five – with no clear plans for the odd man out.
Morton has made just one relief appearance during his big league career – while Locke has two, Worley (eight) and Burnett (five). So, in short, none of these options have any real experience as a long-man. It’s not to say that it can’t be done, but all of these starters have more value to the team in the rotation.
After a 12-loss season in 2014, his third major surgery in four seasons last fall and a crowded rotation in Pittsburgh, the future has never been more unclear for Charlie Morton. But Thursday’s outing – albeit with mixed results – was at least a small step in the right direction for the Pirates’ right-hander.