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Morton shines in final start

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Charlie Morton’s final spring training start went very well, albeit in a 4-1 loss against the Twins. Morton yielded one run and five hits, walked one and struck out three. Jason Kubel’s solo homer in the fifth inning was the lone stain on Morton’s day.

“Results-wise, that was probably my most complete outing,” said Morton, who posted a 4.38 ERA in six Grapefruit League starts. “One day, I’d be really aggressive. Another day, I’d be throwing my curveball for strikes. Today, it was more a combination of everything coming together. I feel good.”

– Morton will stay behind in Florida when the Pirates break camp Thursday night. He will start (55-60 pitches) Sunday in a minor league game at Pirate City to stay on his normal routine for the regular season.

• After the game, I caught up with former Pitt infielder Jim Negrych, who played three innings for the Pirates and went 0 for 1. Last year, Negrych’s season at Double-A Altoona was cut short by an abdominal injury which required surgery. His recovery was slowed by two separate infections which caused him to drop 45 pounds. For a bit more info on Negrych’s comeback, you’ll have to plunk down 50 cents (or click on our Website to do it for free) and read the Trib.

• The Pirates’ lone run came in the ninth inning. Shelby Ford tripled and scored on Erik Kratz’s ground out.

• Hayden Penn made his Pirates debut Tuesday in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays minor leaguers. The right-hander pitched one scoreless inning and allowed one hit and struck out one. He threw 10 pitches.

• Reliever Joel Hanrahan also pitched two innings against the Blue Jays prospects. The righty gave up two hits, struck out three and threw 26 pitches.

• Ronny Cedeno (lower back stiffness) exercised and did light workouts today at Pirate City. “I should be OK (on Wednesday),” Cedeno told me. He said his back locked up Sunday morning, when he was part of the split-squad that went to Clearwater to play the Phillies. That game was rained out.

• Stephen Strasburg, the top pick in the 2009 draft, will make his minor league debut April 11 against Double-A Altoona at Blair County Ballpark. Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood will be in the house when the Curve open their season April 8.

• Ex-Buccos update: Freddy Sanchez still has not taken swings against live pitching and will remain in San Francisco Giants training camp when the regular season begins. He had shoulder surgery in December.

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