PHOENIX -- Charlie Morton continued his recovery and preparation Monday with another outing in a game situation, inching closer to an eventual return after nearly a year away from the majors.
Morton threw 29 pitches in two innings Monday of an extended spring training game. Morton, 29, who had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in June, threw some of his secondary pitches in addition to his two-seam fastball.
"The velocity was very good," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was another good day for him."
Pitchers generally take about a year to return from elbow ligament reconstructions. Morton, a right-hander, has had no setbacks during his recovery.
Pirates vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m., Chase Field, Phoenix.
- TV, Radio:
Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).
- Probable pitchers:
RHP James McDonald (0-1, 1.29 ERA) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (0-0, 10.80).
- Key matchup:
McDonald vs. Eric Hinkse, who is 4 for 6 with a double and home run against McDonald in his career.
- Hidden stat:
McCarthy walked only 24 batters in 111 innings in 2012.
Before Morton can enter what for him will serve as spring training, he slowly will add his secondary pitches to the fastball as he continues to build arm strength.
"We're probably still going to incorporate all the pitches before we start ramping it up," Hurdle said.
"He's getting close to that, where we're actually saying, 'OK, today it's two [innings] and 35 [pitches], then it's three and 50.' "
In addition to his sinker, Morton throws a four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. He dabbled with a cut fastball, hoping for a weapon to keep left-handers from sitting on the sinker, before the injury.
"These innings are building up arm strength, the pitches, but he's not throwing a lot of pitches other than the sinker right now," Hurdle said. "That's something that we've got to add in from time to time and we want to incrementally put them in one at a time. He's in a very good place. He's still on schedule."
The Pirates have not set their rotation for their weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park.
The team is off Thursday, which is when A.J. Burnett's start would fall on regular rest. If Jeff Locke, who started Monday and would start Friday on regular rest, opened the series, Burnett would pitch Saturday on six days of rest, two more than usual. Burnett likes to remain on his routine.
The Pirates could skip Locke or bump the rest of the starters back a day in order to keep Burnett as close to regular rest as possible. An early day off meant the Pirates did not need Locke the first time through the rotation, and he pitched in extended spring training to stay on schedule.
"We wanted to wait until after A.J. pitched, evaluated Locke's situation," Hurdle said. "We're looking at a couple different options."
Hurdle said he planned to speak with the pitchers today.
Entering a game Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Pirates were 3.7 percent of the way through the 162-game season. As such, Hurdle had no grave concerns about the lack of offense. The Pirates had eight runs, the least in the majors, and their on-base-plus-slugging percentage was .348.
"We've played six games," he said. "Nobody likes it when it goes on, it's going to happen at different points of the season. I just tell them, you got to get a good pitch to hit, you got to see it, put a good swing on it. I don't really want too much thinking going on at the plate.
"Nothing has changed anything I thought before because we're 1-5 and hitting a buck-nineteen."
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published April 9, 2013 4:30 AM