Charlie Morton struggles early, then steadies

PIRATES NOTEBOOK

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NEW YORK -- Charlie Morton's two most recent starts have mirrored one another: A bad first inning in which he allowed multiple runs, followed by several strong frames to complete a respectable outing.

Morton allowed three runs in the first inning of a 4-3 loss Sunday to the New York Yankees in the first game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. He allowed another run in the second, then faced the minimum for his final five innings of work.

"I guess I established [pitching] in a little bit more," Morton said. "I was working in a little bit more. The curveball was there, the changeup was there, sinker was there."

In Morton's previous start, eight days ago at home against the St. Louis Cardinals, he allowed four runs -- one earned -- and faced nine Cardinals batters in the first. In the next five innings, he allowed three hits and kept the Cardinals scoreless.

"Along those lines, as far as traffic" on the bases, manager Clint Hurdle said of the similarities between Morton's starts. "Not enough time in the windup in the first inning. And then trying to find outs. The one thing that we continue to remind him of is when he gets in those jams, that sinker plays."

Morton had a 1.12 ERA in the first inning this season entering Sunday. He said improved pitch selection and location, not necessarily a change in his warm-up routine, could help.

"I don't feel like I was making very good pitches at all that first inning against St. Louis," Morton said. "For the most part, the first inning for me, I've been pitching lights-out."

Cumpton's brief stay

Right-hander Brandon Cumpton made a brief appearance on the Pirates roster Sunday as the extra man called up from Class AAA Indianapolis for the doubleheader against the Yankees.

Cumpton had a 1.41 ERA for Indianapolis in 32 innings spread across five starts for the Indians. He did not allow an earned run in three of those five starts.

Cumpton made two starts for the Pirates while Wandy Rodriguez was on the disabled list. He struck out nine while only walking one and allowed six runs in 122/3 innings of work.

The new collective bargaining agreement implemented prior to the 2012 season allows teams to call up an extra player for doubleheaders that are scheduled far enough in advance.

Catcher also brought up

The Pirates brought Class AAA catcher Nevin Ashley to New York as a precaution in case Tony Sanchez's right elbow, which he jammed Saturday on a slide, prevented him from playing.

Sanchez, however, started both games of the doubleheader and homered in the first one.

Sanchez dived around a tag at second Saturday as he was tagged out trying to stretch a single into a double. He had an ice pack on his right elbow after the game.

Grilli update

Closer Jason Grilli will pitch on consecutive days Tuesday and Wednesday as he continues to rehabilitate a strained left oblique that sent him to the disabled list.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.


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