The Pittsburgh Pirates rotation may not be so front-heavy after all.
Charlie Morton now has four starts in 2015 under his belt since returning from injury, and the results can’t be anything but encouraging for the Pirates and their fans. Despite a shaky outing in an eventual 10-8 win over the Atlanta Braves, Morton has turned in nothing but vintage ground chuck appearances, and is clearly getting stronger as he progresses. Consider this: Morton threw 102 pitches in the win yesterday vs the Brewers, a sizable increase from the mid-80s pitch counts of this first three starts. It is safe to say that he is fully back from offseason hip surgery.
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So what does this mean for the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation? Well, for one, continued success from Morton would mean that the Bucs rotation won’t be so loaded at the top. It would also mean that the team has better chances of winning a series when the dominoes fall like they did in the recent Braves series, which saw Morton start the series followed by Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole. If Morton craters, the prospects in a series without two of the Pirates “Big Three” are drastically different.
Yesterday I had the great pleasure of appearing on Trib Live Radio during the Josh Taylor show, and one of the topics was Morton and how the team feels about him. In my mind, the Pirates know exactly what strengths Morton brings, as evidenced by Jordy Mercer starting every game that Morton starts to field all those ground balls. They have full confidence in a healthy Morton. But yet, Morton has taken his own game to another level this year, as evidenced by a total of only eight fly balls between four starts. All of those ground balls has led to the Pittsburgh Pirates leading the National League in ground ball percentage at 52.7% on the year. The ceiling is now higher for Morton. He is no longer an “innings-eater.”