Pirates notebook: Morton receives high marks

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ST. LOUIS -- It was 11 minutes after midnight local time Wednesday when the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up their marathon, 14-inning game. And it had been hours since Charlie Morton had thrown his final pitch of the game.

It had been so long that Morton joked that he remembered only "parts of it."

If true, it's too bad because he showed significant progress.

Morton bounced back from an ugly outing in his previous appearance against the Cardinals to piece together his second consecutive quality start.

"I really believe our guys feel, regardless of what happened in their last outing, they're going to go out and get the job done in their next outing," manager Clint Hurdle said.

"The fact that it matched up here could have been a little more impactful for [him]."

Morton especially was sharp through the first five innings, allowing three hits and no runs as the Pirates enjoyed a three-run lead.

"This was a big game," Morton said. "I feel like I threw the ball pretty well ... especially given the situation. I was just trying to keep the team in the game."

Hurdle said Morton had good command of his fastball, which has a heavy sinking action on it designed to keep the ball out of the air.

"My sinker was working," Morton said.

He carried a 6.30 career ERA against the Cardinals into his start Tuesday and had allowed a season-high five earned runs against St. Louis in a start earlier this month. He had lost five consecutive starts against the Cardinals heading into the game.

"He gave us a good start and got us to a good part of the game," Hurdle said. "He was good."

More good news for Wandy

Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez (left forearm tightness) said Wednesday he felt good after throwing a 35-pitch bullpen session Tuesday.

Rodriguez threw fastballs and changeups without any setbacks.

"It's going to be a process, but it was very encouraging," pitching coach Ray Searage said.

Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since June 6. If all goes well, he could return to the active roster by the middle of September.

Searage said Rodriguez had a good pace to his session but particularly was impressed by the way Rodriguez increased his intensity toward the end.

"The last 15, he got more aggressive and the ball came out of his hand good," he said.

Rodriguez is still hesitant to say he is healthy, as he is yet to throw his curveball -- a pitch that takes a bigger toll on the forearm. He will throw his curveball Friday when he pitches batting practice.

"Let me see how my arm responds to every pitch," he said.

New role for Harrison

Josh Harrison turned a key double play in the 11th Tuesday night as a fifth infielder on a play the team had never had practiced.

"I was standing up the middle and [Neil] Walker to my left and [Clint] Barmes to my right," Harrison said. "First time I'd ever been in a situation where I was a fifth infielder, was just kind of hanging out in the middle."

He said he caught wind of the alignment change when the bat boy waved from the dugout.

"I just saw the bat boy running out and I saw him kind of waving toward me," he said. "I saw that he had my infield glove in my hand so I switched gloves and I knew I was going to the infield at that point."

The double play was scored 6-9-3 and ended the 11th.

Altoona gets All-Star Game

Class AA affiliate Altoona will play host to the Eastern League All-Star Game next year, the club announced. It will be the second time the Curve welcome the All-Star Game to Altoona, having also played host to the game in 2006. The 2014 Eastern League All-Star Game will be played July 16.

pirates

Jenn Menendez contributed to this report. Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.


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