BRADENTON, Fla. -- As smoothly as Charlie Morton's rehabilitation has gone this offseason, he will not start the season on the active roster.
The Pirates will place Morton on the 15-day disabled list, general manager Neal Huntington said Thursday, so Morton can increase his pitch count and start at least two more games before returning to the Pirates.
"For him to be where he is is a tremendous credit to Charlie," Huntington said. "We feel like [he's] just not quite ready to go."
Morton will start a simulated game April 4 in Bradenton. He will join the Pirates for opening day in Pittsburgh and then is scheduled to make a rehabilitation start April 9 with Class AAA Indianapolis.
If all goes well, Morton will return to the rotation April 14, the first day he can come off the DL, in San Francisco against the Giants. The Pirates don't need a fifth starter until that day because of scheduled days off April 6 and April 9.
"I didn't really expect to be in the rotation unless I was pitching really, really, really well," Morton said. "[Wednesday] night I didn't pitch all that great. I don't fault them for the decision where they think I might need a little bit of extra time."
Morton had surgery October 10 to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He experienced no setbacks during the spring, but trailed the rest of the starters by about a week in his throwing program. He allowed six runs on eight hits in five innings Wednesday, his most recent Grapefruit League start, and threw only 76 pitches. Huntington said he would ideally reach 100 pitches before joining the active roster.
The Pirates reassigned right-hander Ryota Igarashi, catcher/infielder Jake Fox, infielder Nick Evans and catcher Eric Fryer to minor league camp Thursday. They have 30 active players in camp and must reduce that number to 25 before April 5.
Igarashi, 32, allowed nine runs in 91/3 innings this spring.
"I did everything I could have done," Igarashi said in Japanese, with Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator Kiyoshi Momose translating. "The results weren't there."
Fox hit .269 (7 for 26) this spring.
"We had some guys that we felt were more versatile, that were a little better defensively, that we liked similarly with the bat, that are still in camp and still in competition," Huntington said.
Fryer, who hit .318 this spring, will be the everyday catcher for Indianapolis, Huntington said. Evans had three hits in 27 at-bats in spring training. All four are expected to stay in the organization, though Huntington said they would allow Igarashi to leave if he received another opportunity.
Starting Morton on the DL gives the Pirates some options as they remove the final five members from their roster. Because they need only four starters until Morton returns, they can keep an extra hitter on the bench or carry eight relievers, two scenarios Huntington said the club was considering. Yamaico Navarro, Matt Hague and Josh Harrison remain in tight competition for the final bench spot, though all three could make the team if the Pirates choose to carry seven relievers.
The Pirates also have to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for non-roster invitee Juan Cruz, who all but secured himself a spot in the bullpen with a solid spring campaign. When asked about a possible 40-man move, Huntington said the move would take place today.
The Pirates will not clear a 40-man spot by putting A.J. Burnett on the 60-day DL, Huntington said. The Pirates cannot place someone on the 60-day DL retroactively, so adding Burnett would keep him out until early June. He has progressed well after surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone beneath his right eye and could return on the earlier side of the two- to three-month timetable given after his surgery March 2.
James McDonald could not locate the strike zone early in Thursday's game.
Once he did, he also located the Minnesota Twins' bats.
McDonald allowed 10 earned runs and seven walks in 32/3 innings in an 11-6 loss to the Twins at McKechnie Field. He also hit Danny Valencia in the back of the head.
"I battled but left my ball up in the zone," McDonald said. "It was just a bad day for me."
McDonald allowed two home runs. He threw good breaking pitches at times and said those were the bright spot of the day.
"He needed to find a way to make an adjustment out there," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He did at times."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.