CHICAGO -- With nine starts under his belt, Charlie Morton's revamped delivery and reborn sinker will no longer catch teams by surprise.
Word gets around after a pitcher makes significant changes for the better, and Morton is no exception. Every hitter now can study plenty of video of the "new and improved" Pirates right-hander.
"Consistency is going to be his biggest challenge," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We'll see where the season takes him. There'll be more challenges along the way."
Morton will have to adapt and at times tweak his approach the rest of the season. He already has made one alteration, junking his circle-changeup for a split-fingered change. But don't expect him to made huge changes just to trick hitters.
"I've already done a lot of changing in a short period of time," Morton said. "There's got to be a point where it's like, 'All right, let's just get good at what I'm doing.' "
Midway through spring training, pitching coach Ray Searage suggested Morton drop his arm slot to a low three-quarter style. The move at first confused some hitters, as the ball came at them from different angles than before.
Morton also dusted off his sinker, a pitch he had been urged to put aside during the past couple of seasons. Using the two-seamed fastball has turned him into a different pitcher and has helped Morton check right-handed batters to a .172 average.
However, problems remain. Lefties are batting .341 against him. His ratio of walks per nine innings (4.9) also is troubling.
"I still have a lot more to learn," Morton said. …