Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

HEALTHY MORTON SAVORS NEW STATUS [Corrected 02/28/14]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

HEALTHY MORTON SAVORS NEW STATUS [Corrected 02/28/14]

Article excerpt

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Charlie Morton will buck a nasty springtime trend of injury and recovery today when he pitches against the New York Yankees in Tampa. Fla.

Morton spent the 2013 spring recovering from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, which prevented him from participating in exhibition games and delayed his first start until June. In 2012, one year after Morton found new effectiveness and confidence with a lower, more natural arm slot, he lagged behind the rest of the pitchers due offseason hip surgery.

"I was able to do pretty much everything from the get-go [this year]," Morton said. "All my normal exercises, weight training, all that stuff, pretty much started mid-November."

Before injury, there was ineffectiveness. In 2011, he entered spring on the heels of a 2-12 record and 7.57 ERA in 2010, far removed from the guaranteed rotation spot Morton now enjoys.

Morton, 30, a right-hander, will join Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole in a rotation that teamed in 2013 with a stellar bullpen to lead an average offensive team to 94 wins and the playoffs.

Morton, however, views the rotation as a collection of individuals who need to perform when called upon.

"It may look different from the outside looking in," he said.

"What we do is we try to get ready to pitch when we're given an opportunity to pitch."

Morton enters this season with slightly more than five years of major league service, meaning he could have tested free agency after last season. Considering the contracts doled out to pitchers this winter -- $24 million for three years of Phil Hughes, four years and $49 million for Ricky Nolasco, four years and $50 million for Matt Garza -- Morton could have found a nice offer.

But Morton wanted to remain in Pittsburgh, and the Pirates realized his value was only going up, so the two sides agreed to a three-year, $21 million extension with an option for 2017.

"I guess the fact that I signed this past offseason, it changed things," Morton said. …

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