DUNEDIN, Fla. — We’ve already established that former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan wasn’t the right fit last year for Brad Lincoln. It turns out fellow righty Charlie Morton also owes some of his struggles last year to decisions made by his ex-mentor.
Morton’s sinker has been very effective so far this spring, and was a big reason he breezed through three innings today on just 25 pitches (19 strikes).
“I’ve noticed when you have a sinker and a four-seamer it gives the hitter something else to look at,” Morton said. “I can use the four-seamer to get ahead or to steal a strike here and there. When I’m behind, I’ll throw that sinker and pitch to contact. And since I’m throwing the cutter and am back to throwing the sinker, lefties are having a hard time.”
Morton has induced three double plays in five innings. Today, he got the Blue Jays’ Adam Lind to bounce into one to get out of a jam in the first inning.
“Those double plays aren’t well-placed pitches,” Morton said. “Those are just down in the zone with good action and they’re hitting them on the ground.”
Morton used the sinker at every level as he rose through the Braves’ farm system. Where was the sinker last year?
“I wasn’t throwing it,” Morton said. “I threw it in ’08 and ’09. Last year, we just … we scrapped it.”
Morton did not point a finger at Kerrigan. But when asked why the sinker was scrapped last year, Morton didn’t say a word. That was enough of an indictment for me.
»»» It might have been the shortest double in the history of the Grapefruit League. Jason Jaramillo hit two doubles today in the 4-1 victory against the Blue Jays. His second one, which began the sixth inning, fell about 10 feet in front of home plate. It was a towering pop-up, which landed behind catcher Ryan Budde.
“I was a little frustrated because I got a good pitch to hit and it felt like I put a good swing on it, but I just missed it,” Jaramillo said.
Jaramillo never stopped running and was at second base by the time Budde found the ball. “You can look at it after you hit it, but you’ve gotta run,” Jaramillo said, grinning. “It worked out.”
Jaramillo’s hustle pleased manager Clint Hurdle: “We’ve talked about (baserunning) and right there is a perfect example. Most hitters hit that ball and they’re disappointed. We’re trying to teach these guys that they’ve got to play. Will that ball be dropped all the time? No, but the one time it is we need to be on second. That’s the way we’re going to play. And he was there.”
»»» Lincoln tossed three scoreless innings and retired all nine batters he faced. “Brad was much better with his command than in his first time out,” Hurdle said. … Pedro Alvarez had a two-out, two-run triple. Dusty Brown and Josh Rodriguez each delivered an RBI single. … Garrett Atkins has three hits so far this spring. All of them have gone for extra bases. … The Pirates have stolen at least one base in each of the past six games. … The Pirates brought minor leaguer Jeremy Farrell on the trip. It was a nice touch, as his dad, John, is the Blue Jays’ first-year manager. Jeremy Farrell pinch-hit for Alvarez in the eighth and grounded out.
»»» Righty Kevin Correia will start Friday against the Phightin’ Phils. Brian Burres, Fernando Nieve, Bryan Morris, Kyle McPherson and Dan Moskos also are scheduled to pitch.