Morton says Pirates' faith led to him staying in Pittsburgh
Charlie Morton knows the contract extension he agreed to last week limits his earning potential. The Pirates' right-handed pitcher understands compensation has soared on the free-agent market, which he could have entered after next season, where mid-rotation arms are enjoying eight-figure, per-season contracts.
But Morton said at PirateFest that maximizing his value was not the chief objective in negotiating a three-year, $21 million contract extension. Morton said a primary focus was remaining with the organization that traded for him in 2009 and hung with him despite uneven performance and injury, which included Tommy John surgery in 2012.
“The way I looked at it was, I wanted to be a Pirate,” Morton said. “The only way I'm going to be a Pirate is if I sign with the Pirates. Say I have a phenomenal year this year and I go into free agency; I still wanted to be a Pirate.
“(Testing free agency) — that's not what I wanted. I wanted to be here working with the men in that clubhouse and for the people in the city. That's what the draw was for me. Working with guys like (pitching coach) Ray (Searage) and (special assistant) Jim Benedict. … Everything keeps going back to 2009 when they wanted me here in this organization when they traded for me. They kept giving me opportunities even when I failed.”
Four years after the Pirates traded Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves for Morton, Jeff Locke and Gorkys Hernandez, the investment began to pay off.
Searage and Benedict helped rebuild Morton's delivery and refine his sinking fastball. If he had enough innings to qualify, Morton (7-4, 3.29 ERA) would have led baseball in groundball percentage (62.9) last season.
For the Pirates, extending Morton was an offseason priority. A.J. Burnett is a free agent and contemplating retirement. Francisco Liriano is signed for one more season as is Wandy Rodriguez. Before Morton's extension, Gerrit Cole was the club's only impact starter down the stretch in 2013 who was controlled beyond this season.
“You look for ways to maintain sustainability, and you look toward your pitching staff first for stability,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Charlie took big steps forward in many areas last year.”
The Pirates believe there is upside with Morton, who struggled with left-handers last season: He was essentially a two-pitch pitcher. He began to mix in a split-change in the second half of last season, and it's a pitch he hopes to refine in spring training.
“Rehab kind of hindered any kind of pitch-adding,” Morton said. “I think now I can look at my needs and see what my needs are … what I can do to get better against lefties.”
Notes: Hurdle said he is considering moving catcher Russell Martin into the No. 2 spot in the batting order. Hurdle said he will likely will keep Starling Marte at leadoff and would like Pedro Alvarez to seize the cleanup spot … General manager Neal Huntington said the club does not have the financial resources to pursue free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates grind out extra-inning win against testy Tigers
- Bush Center displays rare Honus Wagner baseball card
- Pirates notebook: Cervelli gets 1st career DH start
- Gameday: Pirates at Detroit, July 1, 2015
- Pirates hope 1st baseman Alvarez starts to regain power stroke
- Gameday: Pirates at Tigers, June 30, 2015
- Starkey: Cervelli’s inspiration
- Pirates notebook: Red Sox, Phillies pitchers could be on Pirates’ radar
- Pirates notebook: Power shortage continues, Tabata designated for assignment
- McCutchen’s 1st-inning exit with injury mars Pirates’ victory over Braves
- Pirates notebook: Shortstops Mercer, Simmons effective with contrasting styles