Morton safe … for now


CINCINNATI — Charlie Morton is on the brink of being sent down to the minors.

Morton lasted just two innings tonight in an 8-2 loss against the Reds. The right-hander allowed seven runs on eight hits, walked three and balked.

The wipeout boosted Morton’s ERA by a half-point to 9.35. It was the fifth time in 10 starts that he has not pitched into the fifth inning.

Will Morton (1-9) remain in the rotation?

“As of now … yeah,” manager John Russell said. “He’s worked really hard and, unfortunately, tonight was a night where nothing really paid off for him. We’ll re-evaluate it and see where we are. It was a step back, and we’ve got to see what we can do to go forward again.”

Russell said putting Morton in the bullpen to work through his problems is not an option.

“No,” Russell said. “He’s going to be a starter, no matter what.”

Russell had a closed-door meeting with Morton for about a half-hour after the game. Morton emerged with a somber look and said he realizes his next start — scheduled for Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park — could be make or break.

“I’ve kind of felt that for a while now,” Morton said. “The reality of it is, my first four starts were horrendous. Any progress I did make over the past month or so has been overshadowed by how horrible everything else was at the beginning of the year. It’s a difficult situation to be in.”

– The good news: Aki Iwamura had an RBI single in the seventh inning. The bad: The hit came on the one-month anniversary of his last RBI. Seriously.

– Andy LaRoche’s throwing error in the second inning opened the door for two unearned runs. With runners on the corners and one out, LaRoche snagged Brandon Phillips’ grounder but threw past second baseman Neil Walker.

LaRoche admitted he thought about going to the plate, until he saw that Orlando Cabrera had not strayed far off third. When he tried to throw for the double play, LaRoche’s body was partly turned toward first base.

“Stupid on my part,” LaRoche admitted. “I should have stepped more toward second base to make the throw. I should’ve made the decision (to throw to second) a little sooner.”

– This afternoon, Double-A Altoona turned the second triple play in franchise history. In the sixth inning, Akron had runners on first and second. Shortstop Chase d’Arnaud caught a liner, stepped on second base to double off the runner, then threw to first baseman Matt Hague for the third out.