ShareThis Page
Pirates starting pitcher Morton fine-tunes his delivery after surgery |

Pirates starting pitcher Morton fine-tunes his delivery after surgery

Rob Rossi
| Tuesday, January 13, 2015 11:00 p.m
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton warms up before throwing off the mound for the first time since undergoing surgery on Sept. 26, 2014 during the second day of voluntary work-outs Tuesday, Jan.13, 2015, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — While all the other pitchers at Pirates minicamp threw long toss on a nearby field Tuesday morning, Charlie Morton toiled in the bullpen.

Morton was surrounded by curious onlookers: pitching coaches, assistants and a trainer. Small video cameras recorded the right-hander’s moves from different angles.

It is unusual for a pitcher to throw off a mound during voluntary workouts in mid-January. Usually this time is reserved for easy tossing on flat ground. Morton is a special case.

“Because I’ve been hurt a lot, I’ve kind of gotten used to throwing at weird times,” said Morton, who has endured three operations since 2011. “Guys who rehab a lot get used to the awkward schedules.”

The brief session was the first time Morton had thrown off a mound since he had hip surgery in late September. It was an unremarkable — in a good way — and important step toward reclaiming a spot in the Opening Day starting rotation.

“It felt good,” Morton said. “It’s a matter of easing into it, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get off the mound today, nice and easy. This way I’m not getting off the mound at 65 percent (in spring training) when everybody else is at 85 or 90 percent.”

Four years ago, Morton needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. Midway through the 2012 season, he had Tommy John surgery.

Last year, Morton made 26 starts and posted a 3.72 ERA but was bothered throughout the season by two health issues. Femoroacetabular impingement, a condition in which irregularly shaped hip bones rub against each other, damaged the labrum in his right hip. As he tried to pitch through the injury, Morton developed pubalgia, commonly called a sports hernia.

Doctors fixed his FAI by shaving the bone and repaired his labrum.

“They cleaned it up and tacked it back down,” Morton said matter-of-factly.

Morton said both hips finally are healthy. The pubalgia also no longer bothers him, but Morton remains wary.

“It kind of came from nowhere and felt miserable last year,” Morton said. “It was very deceiving. There were days when I’d get up and feel OK, but then I’d go throw off the mound and it was bad.”

Morton, 31, got a three-year, $21 million contract extension before the 2014 season. Over the past three years, he made 55 starts and went 15-22 with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.

The Pirates are counting on Morton to help solidify the middle of the rotation. If he cannot stay healthy, the burden will increase on 38-year-old righty A.J. Burnett, who last year was bothered by a groin injury.

Morton threw only a handful of pitches — none of them at anything near max effort — during his bullpen session Tuesday at Pirate City. As he recovers from surgery, Morton is trying to fine-tune changes in his delivery.

On the mound, Morton stood with his back toward home plate. He quickly whirled and threw with a noticeably shorter arm action.

“I’m trying to get it a little cleaner, a little more efficient,” Morton said. “I’m hoping it translates to competition, but I’m sure it’s not going to be as pronounced when I actually start throwing in a game.”

Jim Benedict, the guru who saved Morton’s career by revamping his delivery in 2011, is behind this latest alteration. Benedict got the idea as he watched Morton’s quick and clean pickoff move.

“Benny’s always trying to help me improve,” Morton said. “If you make things more efficient, you avoid problems. I can make a firm, accurate throw and still be efficient.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

Categories: Pirates
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.