Charlie Morton said after tonight’s loss to the Orioles that he knows there hasn’t been the same life in the ball as there has been lately, and that his velocity’s down. He’s still getting good movement on the ball, but he’s making pitches where he’s been confident he’s going to get ground-ball outs and they turn into hits.
But it’s not a matter of not hitting spots the way he was earlier in the season, because Morton said he wasn’t hitting spots earlier in the season.
He was just throwing down in the zone and opposing batters were hitting it into the ground.
“Just because the ball was moving and it had great life on it,” he said. “If it wasn’t moving, I wouldn’t have gotten swings and misses and strikeouts. But the thing is, on a consistent basis, I was keeping the ball down, pretty much. I haven’t really felt like a pitcher, per se. I’ve felt like a thrower this year because I’ve been able to aim low in the zone and have guys hit into the ground.”
Moving forward, Morton said, he wants to work on locating his pitches, with movement. He’ll learn how to do it, it will just take time.
And time is something it sounds like manager Clint Hurdle may want to limit in the near future.
“The first thing we can do is help him regain some stamina,” Hurdle said. “That is the biggest thing for me. Is he tired? No. Does he feel strong? Yes. But is there some fatigue involved? Absolutely.”
Morton said he doesn’t know if something like skipping a start would help, but if that’s what happens, he hopes it is to his advantage.
“The biggest thing is to not push the panic button,” he said. “I know what the problem is, I know they’re getting better swings on the ball and squaring the ball up a little better than they were before, and I know why. The only thing is I need to know how to fix it. If it’s skipping a start or adjusting workload, that’s something we’ll look into.”
One thing Morton said won’t be a problem, unlike last year, will be his own over-analysis of tonight’s bad outing.
“I’ll be one of the least analytical people in Pittsburgh about this,” Morton said. “I’ve pitched too well for too long for this to go out the window.”
= Hurdle said that Morton isn’t the only one who’s pitched more innings through the same point in the season that at any other time in his career, adding James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and even Kevin Correia to that list. “Those are just things you pay attention to,” he said.
= Former Pirates manager and current Orioles third base coach John Russell stayed in the dugout tonight while bench coach Willie Randolph coached at third. Russell’s knee has been bothering him, although he was at third base over the weekend, and there has to be some question as to whether it was to shield Russell from the boo-birds. Here’s what Orioles manager Buck Showalter had to say about it: “It was a combination of things. The knee’s been barking a little bit, plus I want to get him closer to the catchers between innings and stuff. We talked about it a little bit. Plus with John coming back here to Pittsburgh, I wanted him a little closer to me to talk about his knowledge of the Pirates a little bit. It was three-fold.”
= Hurdle said he saw some better at-bats, although it didn’t show in the score. “I can’t sugar coat it. We got five hits, one player had three.”