One good break, one bad break — that’s about the way that things have gone for the Pittsburgh Pirates lately.
Just as the team lost arguably their most reliable starting pitcher in A.J. Burnett due to a calf injury, they welcomed back the reinforcement in Charlie Morton, returning just in time for his first start of the 2013 season fresh off his recovery from Tommy John surgery from last June.
Though expectations were understandably muted for his debut on Thursday, Morton delivered what you might call … well, a steady Charlie Morton performance.
Holding the San Francisco Giants to two earn runs (four total) on seven hits and a walk over five innings, it wasn’t always pretty on the mound for the righty as he allowed at least one baserunner in every frame he pitched. However, looking beyond the overall results in a disappointing 10-0 loss for the Bucs, you’ll see find some light at the end of the tunnel.
For one, there was the fact that Morton took advantage of the unfamiliarity factor, setting down five Giants batters via the strikeout. Secondly, he was able to work his two-seamer in the 90s throughout his 86-pitch outing, coming out of the gate flashing 96 mph and settling at 91-92 by the time he left.
If anything, that’s a solid sign of his health, and it’s no coincidence that despite being knocked around a fair bit, that he was still able to generate a strong 6-2 GO-AO ratio, keeping the calling card to his game alive and well.
So you could really look at it both ways. On one hand, you’ve got a pitcher who found himself in trouble through most of his outing, and ultimately didn’t last long enough or was effective enough to keep the team in it (that said, a key error in the fifth didn’t help Morton any).
On the other, here’s a guy coming back from a long layoff, flashing all of the tools he needs to become a solid back-end innings-eater for the Bucs down the stretch.
Considering that reliability is not exactly a trait that the team can rely on too much right now as far as the starting rotation goes, I think they’ll be more than happy to take the latter and see what they can build from it.