Charlie Morton was optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis, where he already had been pitching on a minor-league rehabilitation stint and where he will start again Sunday night.
Morton's rehabilitation time was about to expire Tuesday -- had been place on the 15-day disabled list May 28 and already made five starts for Indianapolis -- and management decided it was best to keep him there at least through the All-Star break.
"We felt this was the best time to option Charlie," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He is healthy and prepared to come off the disabled list, but we do not see a good fit on the major-league roster at the present time. We believe he will be a quality major-league starting pitcher again for us in the future but, as we weighed our options, we determined the best course of action was to continue his development at Triple-A."
To hear Morton's pitching coach at Indianapolis, Dean Treanor, tell it, Morton should be bound for Pittsburgh soon.
"I was asked after that start Charlie had last week, 'Was he ready?' Yeah, he was ready," Treanor said by phone from Louisville, Ky., referring to Morton's complete-game, one-run, two-hit gem June 24. "And Charlie's still ready. It's just a matter of when they feel is the right time to bring him back to Pittsburgh."
Morton was placed on the disabled list partially to allow time for a mildly sore right shoulder but mostly for a chance to recover mentally from that disastrous 1-9 record and 9.35 ERA. With Indianapolis, Morton is 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA, with 21 strikeouts and 10 walks.
After the aforementioned gem, he lasted only 3 1/3 innings Tuesday and was charged with four earned runs and seven hits, but Treanor dismissed the latter because he saw little difference in Morton's mechanics or mindset.
"It was one of those days where the command wasn't there," Treanor said. "Obviously, the two-hit game before it was very, very good. Well, Charlie's trying to figure out some things with his delivery, and he was able to mostly carry that over. I think that two-hit game was a much better indication of where he is."
As for Morton's mental state, Treanor, very much the old-school type, acknowledged having to handle him in a special way.
"Charlie's a different personality, so you don't really talk to him that same way that you do, say, a Brad Lincoln," Treanor said. "You don't use the same terminology, and you don't attack things the same way. But there is competitiveness in there, and it shows. I feel like I'm getting to know him. Everybody has questions about him, but I don't. The competitiveness is there."
The Pirates, along with most teams, were quiet on the first day of the signing period for international 16-year-olds, mostly because it now takes days, even weeks to get clearance on a player's age and identity under new regulations.
One source said the Pirates have agreed to contracts with several players falling into the July 2 category but that it will take "some time" before they will announce them.
Starling Marte, the Pirates' top outfield prospect, will return to action tomorrow for Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League after missing nearly two months to hand surgery.
Marte will stay with the GCL team for about a week before making his next move. He had been with the high Class A Bradenton team.
• Second baseman Neil Walker is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing a week to a concussion, though that will not be confirmed until he is checked again this afternoon for concussion symptoms. He took grounders and participated in his first batting practice Friday.
• Zach Duke's two rehabilitation starts probably will come with Class AA Altoona next week, beginning Monday. He pitched a side session Friday at PNC Park with no issues from his strained left elbow.
• Pitcher Chris Jakubauskas, also with Indianapolis, left the game Thursday because of a strained right hip flexor and should miss a week. The Pirates decided Friday to end his rehabilitation assignment, which had been for the concussion sustained April 24 when struck in the head by a line drive
• AOL Fanhouse reported that the Florida Marlins have inquired about trading for closer Octavio Dotel. The Pirates are not known to be shopping any reliever, and Dotel, in particular, might be hard to get because of his $4.5 million club option for 2011 that the Pirates will consider exercising.
• First baseman Steve Pearce was rested Thursday and Friday by Indianapolis because of a sore left knee, and the team said he could be examined with an MRI if it does not improve soon.
• Eric Fryer, a catcher with the Pirates' Class A affiliate in Bradenton, was hit by a pitch in the face Thursday and could need surgery to repair the orbital bone near his eye. Fryer, 24, was acquired as part of the Eric Hinske trade last summer and was batting .274 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs.
• The Pirates signed their 16th-round draft pick, Texas Christian University first baseman Matt Curry. They have signed 15 picks.
Dejan Kovacevic: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published July 3, 2010 4:00 AM