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Pirates notebook: Morton on pace to make regular start

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 4:51 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton delivers against the Brewers during the second inning Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, at PNC Park.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Right-hander Charlie Morton tested his sore left foot in a bullpen session Wednesday and is listed, for now, to take his normal rotation turn Friday against the Cubs.

“We'll see how Charlie feels after (the side), if he's going to be able to make that start,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

The injury forced Morton to leave his last start Sunday in St. Louis in the second inning.

If Morton is too sore to pitch, right-hander Brandon Cumpton could make a spot start against the Cubs.

Morton said his injury is “related” — he stressed that word — to plantar fascia and he will have to deal with the pain the rest of the season.

The Pirates do not expect surgery will be necessary this offseason.

The good news is Morton's elbow is holding up fine after having Tommy John surgery in 2012.

Morton recently began throwing what he described as a hybrid split-change, with the ball jammed between his index and middle fingers to limit the rotation speed.

The pitch has been effective, but Morton admitted two weeks ago that he's still careful to not put too much strain on his surgically rebuilt elbow.

“I'm worried about some tension in my forearm,” Morton said after his Aug. 28 victory against the Brewers. “I'm worried about throwing a split so soon after (having) Tommy John surgery. The first seven or eight starts, I threw a circle change. That was purposeful because of my rehab. I'm not throwing my cutter for the same reason. I'm just trying to limit the stress on my forearm.”

Taillon, Irwin to fall league

The Pirates plan to fill their final two spots in the Arizona Fall League with pitchers Jameson Taillon and Phil Irwin.

Taillon, 21, went a combined 5-10 with a 3.73 ERA and 1.32 WHIP this year with Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. A first-round pick in 2010, the right-hander is the top prospect in the farm system.

Irwin, 26, made a spot start with the Pirates in April and also started two games for Indy.

In July, he had elbow surgery. Pitching in the AFL will enable him to make up for the time he lost during the regular season.

Hurdle's first look

Hurdle was Texas' hitting coach in late June 2010, when the Pirates made their previous visit to Rangers Ballpark. The Rangers swept the three-game series, which was indicative of the Pirates' 17-64 road record that season.

“I can remember them talking about the road record,” Hurdle said. “From that point on, (Rangers coach) Johnny Narron would come over to my locker, ‘Hey, the Pirates won No. 14,' or whatever. It became a thing that we started paying attention to the Pirates when they were on the road because of how hard it was for them to win there.”

Manager John Russell was fired after that season and Hurdle was hired. When he took the job, Hurdle liked what he could recall about the roster he inherited.

“I did like the core group of the offense,” Hurdle said. “Watching (Jose) Tabata and (Pedro) Alvarez — Alvarez had just joined the club — (Andrew) McCutchen and (Neil) Walker, from a hitting coach's position, you think they've got some stakes down in the ground. I thought they could probably get something going if they could get some pitching.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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