Pirates Notebook: Morton 'happy to be back'

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MILWAUKEE -- Charlie Morton, back in the Pirates' clubhouse Saturday and back on the mound today against the Milwaukee Brewers, offered a simple summary for what surely was a complex summer.

"It's been up and down, obviously," he said before letting out a big laugh. "The only way I can look at it is as a learning experience, something to learn and build from, something that will make me better. In short, it's been kind of crazy."

And did he imagine, when the Pirates demoted him to Class AAA Indianapolis in late May with that 1-9 record and 9.35 ERA, that it would take three months to return?

"I thought that I would work things out and, through whatever time period they'd deem me ready, I'd come back. Some of it would get complicated. I would look at it simply as I had to demonstrate that I could pitch."

That did not happen right away as Morton struggled immensely with Indianapolis at the outset. And, aside from a couple excellent starts, it never fully took hold: In 14 starts, he was 4-4 with a 3.83 ERA, 53 strikeouts and 30 walks in 80 innings.

But then, the issue with Morton never has been whether he has the arm or stuff for the majors. It has been, as he put it, demonstrating that he could pitch.

To that end, Morton said that, in hindsight, he actually embraced the early failure in Indianapolis.

"This is how I look at it: If I'd gone down there and was able to get hitters out just by doing the same things I was doing in Pittsburgh, I wouldn't have learned anything. As it was, I had to really think a lot of things through and do a lot of work to get to where I want to be. I know I can pitch here. I know that. But I needed to show it."


Morton received plenty of support in Indianapolis, from the Pirates' sports psychologists, from hard-nosed pitching coach Dean Treanor, from his teammates there and -- in the area he emphasized Saturday -- from several players in the majors, with the Pirates and other teams.

"I had a lot of players call or write or text that they believed in me, in what I can do at this level. That meant a lot to me. And I'm happy to be back. I really am."

Will he stick?

Manager John Russell described himself as "anxious" to see how Morton fares today, in large part because he wants to keep him in the rotation.

"I don't see why not," Russell said.

If Morton sticks, he would become the replacement for Ross Ohlendorf. If Brad Lincoln is recalled, he could be added as a sixth starter, but Lincoln first must get healthy. He remains out of Indianapolis' rotation because of a stiff neck.

Buried treasure

• To clear space for Morton, the Pirates optioned reliever Justin Thomas back to Indianapolis.

Jeff Karstens pitched a side session and remains on track to start Tuesday in Chicago. He skipped a turn last week because of arm fatigue.

• Russell used Ryan Doumit in right field against left-handed starter Chris Capuano, eschewing a standard platoon by sitting Lastings Milledge and using Doumit from the right side.

Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more at PBC Blog .


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