Posted: Monday, August 24, 2015 7:30 pm
Charlie Morton is no longer a one-pitch pitcher.
And that is a good thing for the Pirates, who are counting on the 31-year-old right-hander more than ever. They need a reliable third starter to join right-hander Gerrit Cole and left-hander Francisco Liriano at the top of the rotation while veteran righty A.J. Burnett works his way back from a strained flexor tendon in his elbow.
“We’re watching Charlie develop into more of a complete pitcher instead of a pitcher with a good sinkerball,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Morton, who will start Tuesday night against the Marlins at Miami, showed that in his previous outing last Thursday against the Giants when he worked 6 2/3 strong innings and combined with a relievers Jared Hughes and Tony Watson on a six-hit shutout.
Morton flummoxed the Giants with his curveball as he had eight strikeouts and just two walks while scattering four hits. He showed he is indeed more just a sinkerballer in raising his record to 8-4 and lowering his ERA to 4.06 through 16 start.
The curve has become a necessity for Morton to neutralize left-handed hitters.
“It was a pretty good pitch for me last season but I’ve really needed it this year,” he said. “Left-handed hitters have really taken the lower third of the strike zone away from me because they’ve been looking for the sinker and having success against it. The curve has given me a pitch to get lefties out.
“It’s been a bit of evolution for me but you always need to evolve as a pitcher, as a person really.”
Hurdle is impressed by Charlie’s Uncle Charlie.
“It has so much tilt and depth on it, and there’s enough fastball there that you can’t sit on the curve with him,” Hurdle said. “It makes it a challenge to square him up.”
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said it is a joy to stand behind Morton when he pitches the way he did against the Giants as well as in his previous start Aug. 15 at New York when he took a shutout into the seventh inning against the Mets before giving up a pair of home runs.
“It’s fun to play when he’s going well because he gets a lot of ground balls that lead to a lot of quick innings and you get on and off the field in a hurry,” Walker said. “When he’s on, he is as good as anyone.”