Pirates Notebook: Pirates put struggling Morton on DL

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ATLANTA -- Charlie Morton is headed for the disabled list.

And for Florida.

Both to repair his psychological well being and what is described as a fatigued right (throwing) shoulder.

After compiling the major league's most losses (nine) and most-bloated ERA by a starter (9.35), Morton was placed on the 15-day DL Friday, scheduled to depart for Pirate City today and expected to return to the minor leagues for one or two rehabilitation-assignment starts.

Could this stint last longer than 15 days?

"We hope not," manager John Russell said. "He's fought through it all year. We've seen signs that he was good. It's lingered on long enough, just shut it down. We really don't think it's anything serious.

"It's just, I think he's been trying so hard, he's been working so hard, he's been working so hard on the side, I think his shoulder is just tired. ... Again, it's more precautionary to make sure we get it right."

In announcing the move Friday afternoon, soon after most of the Pirates reported to the same Turner Field where Morton got his professional start with the Braves, who drafted him in the third round in 2002, general manager Neal Huntington mentioned that Morton had experienced discomfort periodically through his 1-9 start -- half his starts lasting four innings or fewer and none longer than six.

"Charlie has been battling mild shoulder discomfort and fatigue off and on for the majority of the season," Huntington said. "Charlie has not wanted to use it as an excuse and has worked to pitch through it. Until now, we felt we could work through the issue without risking additional damage.

"We now feel that the best way to get Charlie back on track is to give his shoulder appropriate rest and recovery time to allow him to get back to 100 percent."

After he lasted two innings Thursday in an 8-2 loss at Cincinnati, Morton met with Russell in the manager's office for nearly a half-hour. The next afternoon, he was preparing for time in Bradenton.

A spokesman said Morton was not available for interviews Friday. The night before, Morton told reporters: "It's just a difficult situation to be in. This one ... it's frustrating."

The previous major-league pitcher to lose nine games by Memorial Day was the Pirates' Kip Wells, (2-9 by this date in '07). The next losingest pitcher this season is Atlanta's Kenshin Kawakami (0-7), who is scheduled to start Sunday against Paul Maholm.

Morton threw one pitch in the first inning Thursday clocked at 94 mph, then was able to reach 94, 95 against Scott Rolen, Johnny Gomes and Drew Stubbs in the second. Such a range is the norm for him, but it is not merely the arm that needs rest.

"That's why he's going to Florida, part of it. To rehab, but also to kind of get out of this environment, to kind of regroup. So, it will be good for him," Russell said.

"Charlie really wanted to prove that he could pitch and showed very good signs of it. But I think a lot of it is putting a lot of pressure on. It probably lead to a lot of the shoulder fatigue, really trying so hard to make it work."

Management previously was reluctant to send him to the minors for work, but Russell said Friday that Morton will have to make at least "a rehab start or two. We'll see how that goes."

Morton's exit leaves a hole in the rotation Tuesday. Brad Lincoln pitched Friday night for Indianapolis in Charlotte, N.C., and would not be available until Wednesday at the earliest. So that leaves swingman Jeff Karstens, some bullpen hodgepodge or potential call-up Daniel McCutchen (on schedule to pitch Monday) as candidates to fill that starting spot. Reliever Steven Jackson was recalled to replace Morton on the roster.

Buried treasure

• Reliever Jack Taschner, on the disabled list with left hamstring tightness until Tuesday at the earliest, is scheduled to work today and Monday in rehab assignments with Class AA Altoona, where reliever Diego Moreno was placed on the DL with a right rotator-cuff strain.

• Shortstop Ronny Cedeno was scratched because of lower-back tightness, an ailment that afflicted him briefly in spring training. Third baseman Andy LaRoche was given Friday off to put his back through a full regimen of batting practice, fielding and running the day after he returned to the lineup. If LaRoche feels well today, Russell said, "hopefully, we've taken a very good step in the right direction."

Chris Jakubauskas, on the DL because of a concussion, is on this trip and scheduled to today throw his first side session since being struck by a line drive April 24.



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