Yankees 4, Pirates 2

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Charlie Morton had another strong outing on Wednesday, and he continues to give the Pirates every reason to consider him for that final spot in the rotation. Actually, I think it’s fair to call him th favorite at this point — both because of what he has done and what Scott Olsen has not been able to do.

Morton did serve up a homer to Andruw Jones on a sinker, but the right-hander was otherwise efficient and effective. In his three innings of work, Morton gave up only one other hit — that a harmless single.

Keep in mind that by coming in mid-game, Morton didn’t face all the same heavy hitters that Kevin Correia did early. But as manager Clint Hurdle noted afterward, it’s Morton’s demeanor that is especially encouraging so far. He looks confident, and he looks like he’s enjoying baseball again. Don’t discount the importance of the latter.

“Very aggressive with all of his pitches,” Hurdle said. “I think the comfort is picking up. You’re watching him get on the mound, get set over the mound, get a sign and deliver. There’s not a lot of fidgeting. He’s very confident out there. He’s been very, very aggressive.”

Morton has now made three starts and has been efficient enough to pitch his scheduled number of innings in each. The sinker continues to be a good go-to pitch for Morton — of the nine outs he recorded on Wednesday, six were on groundballs.

“For the most part I felt pretty aggressive,” Morton said. “I fell behind in some counts, but I managed to stay in those counts and not allow a bunch of baserunners. That’s good. There are some things that I’m working on, but I feel fine. I’m just glad to get out there and compete instead of hanging out in Bradenton like I was all winter.”

***

Kevin Correia pointed out something interesting during his postgame session with the media — something that I think warrants mentioning because it gets forgotten by those who read so much into results. He talked about his preparation for a game like this, and how that preparation doesn’t involve studying video or flipping through scouting reports.

Unlike regular season starts, pitchers don’t typically go through their same intense pregame preparation before Spring Training games. Pitchers make starts with certain goals in mind — wanting to work on a certain pitch, etc. — and not as concerned with pitching to so-and-so’s weakness. It’s not an excuse (and Correia wasn’t using it as one), but is just something to keep in mind any time you see a shaky line from one of the pitchers.

Curious, I asked Correia if he’d start relying on scouting reports more heavily as it gets closer to Opening Day, just to simulate a normal routine. Correia’s answer:

“If it’s a team that we’re going to play during the year, I’ll definitely talk to some guys,” he said. “Yeah, you definitely will start doing that because it’s a little more of a real start. Now you can start pitching to guys’ weaknesses instead of just working on something.”

***

Since it doesn’t make the box score, here are some defensive observations from the night:

  • Pedro Alvarez made two terrific plays at third base. He showed good range and made a really nice back-handed pick.
  • Andrew Lambo gunned down Eduardo Nunez as he tried to go second-to-third on a flyball that wasn’t by any means shallow. Lambo made a great throwing right to third to get Nunez and help Jose Veras wiggle out of trouble in the eighth.
  • It wasn’t as stellar a defensive night for Corey Wimberly, who got handcuffed on two groundballs at short. Neither were routine plays, but Wimberly hasn’t helped himself in proving to management that he can be a backup shortstop.

***

On the main site tonight, you’ll find the story of A.J. Johnson, which, as noted in the blog earlier, is a story that I hope will give everyone some perspective on, well, life. In the notes you’ll find more on Correia’s start, Hurdle’s thoughts about the Pirates’ 16 (yes, 16) strikeouts at the plate and what the Minor Leaguers are saying about the rising talent in the organization.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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