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Pirates notebook: Morton slated to start Thursday

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The Pirates' Charlie Morton poses during Photo Day on Sunday, February 17, 2013, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 5:39 p.m.

Right-hander Charlie Morton will make his season debut Thursday, one day shy of the first anniversary of his Tommy John surgery.

Morton started nine games last season before having reconstructive elbow surgery June 14.

“I'm just excited to get back,” Morton said. “I'm trying to take it like a normal start and do my job.”

Morton got the assignment when left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness) was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 6.

• Rodriguez was supposed to test his sore elbow Monday in a side session. But manager Clint Hurdle said there were “complications” Sunday when Rodriguez threw soft toss Sunday that made the bullpen outing a moot point.

• Putting Rodriguez on the DL opened a spot on the active roster for Gerrit Cole, who pitched Tuesday night. The Pirates will make a corresponding move Thursday when Morton is activated from the DL.

• Management hasn't yet indicated whether Cole will return to the minors or remain in the rotation. Morton also said he's uncertain about his status going forward. “All indications are this is what they want me to do,” Morton said. “Having not pitched in the big leagues for a year, I think the concern is Thursday and no one's worried too much about anything past that.”

• Pirates starting pitchers don't have to worry about pitch counts taking them out of games. “I'm not paying attention to the number of pitches anymore — the rest of the year, for anybody,” Hurdle said, adding that Cole is included. What will determine how long a starter stays on the mound, Hurdle said, is how many baserunners he allows and how he handles pitching out of the stretch late in games. “I don't want anybody looking in the rearview mirror at 95 pitches wondering, ‘How many do I have left?' Just pitch. If you have to have a number, pitch seven full innings and we'll figure it out from there.” Hurdle said the timing was right to make this change, which should provide some type of confidence boost to the starters. “I think the pitchers will welcome it,” he said. Relief pitchers, however, will continue to be closely monitored — not only pitch counts, but how many times they warm up in each game and how many days in a row they pitch.

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