Pirates Notebook: Morton to start Thursday; Rodriguez on DL

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Charlie Morton will make his first start this season for the Pirates Thursday in the final game of the three-game series against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park.

The start will come one day before one-year anniversary of when Morton had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

He will make his 2013 debut as a replacement for injured starter Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness), who was put on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, retroactive to June 6.

Morton said he is anxious to get back out on the mound and restart his career after the long recovery.

"I'm just excited to be back," Morton said Tuesday. "I would have been a little prouder [of rehab process] had I [not had an early May setback]. I was on pace to be back a little quicker, so I was disappointed but at the same time. I'm just glad to be pitching again."

Morton began his rehab stint with one start in Bradenton and three in Altoona, but was shut down in early May because of shoulder stiffness.

He resumed pitching in mid-May.

Over his nine rehab starts, he was 1-2 with a 3.32 ERA, allowing 29 hits in 401/3 innings.

His past two starts, however, were stronger, including Saturday night when he went 61/3 innings and gave up six hits and two runs.

Manager Clint Hurdle said the Pirates wanted to keep him in the minors for one more rehab start, but Rodriguez's injury necessitated Morton's recall.

"His last start was his best start," Hurdle said. "He threw just short of 100 pitches. When we sent him out the last two times, we encouraged him to throw his [two-seam fastball], spot up his [four-seam fastball] and throw his curveball and his changeup and leave everything else.

"We've pushed him pretty good, and I think he is in a good place."

Morton said he doesn't know what his future holds beyond Thursday, but he isn't worried about that because it is out of his control,

Hurdle said that Rodriguez was scheduled to start Thursday but had a setback Sunday when he was throwing a bullpen session.

"Actually, he had complications Sunday playing catch in Chicago, so the bullpen session never really got off the ground," Hurdle said.

Presley impressed

Pirates outfielder Alex Presley spent time in Indianapolis as a teammate of Gerrit Cole, who made his major league debut Tuesday night.

As a result, Presley has watched Cole pitch enough to know he is worthy of the hype.

"He's got good stuff obviously," Presley said. "He has a good fastball, he can beat hitters in hitter's counts. But his other pitches have worked well, and he's been able to mix it up and throw strikes with his other pitches.

"His last couple of outings were really impressive, and he has really improved in a short span."

Presley said that as impressive as Cole's pitches are, it's his demeanor and mental toughness that set him apart from a lot of other pitchers his age.

"He is a guy that has great stuff but he tries to be a pitcher out there as well," Presley said. "He is dangerous on the mound and he's working toward polishing his game a little bit. He's been pretty collected, well, either that or he is just trying to lay low. But he's a pretty even-keeled guy.

"He is fiery on the mound and he is competitive, and you will totally see two different people -- one on the mound and one in the clubhouse. I think that serves him well."

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Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published June 12, 2013 4:00 AM


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