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Arm angle adjustment boosts Pirates' Morton

Sunday, April 17, 2011
 

CINCINNATI — A new arm slot is a big reason for Charlie Morton's dramatic turnaround this season.

The right-hander used to throw with a high three-quarter delivery. About midway through spring training, pitching coach Ray Searage lowered Morton's arm slightly to a low three-quarter style.

"I keep my front shoulder closed a little bit better," Morton said. "My timing's better; everything's just better."

On Friday, Morton was tossed his second career complete game, handcuffing Cincinnati, 6-1.

Reds manager Dusty Baker said the new arm angle gives Morton's pitches better late movement.

"I'm sure it does," Morton said. "They're not seeing it the same as they were."

They're certainly not hitting it the same as they were. In three starts this season, Morton has a 1.64 ERA and has held batters to a .176 batting average.

On Friday, he threw 23 first-pitch strikes against 34 batters and induced 14 ground ball outs.

"When I'm getting outs like that, I'm more confident and more aggressive," Morton said.

Morton, Arroyo linked

Morton lost his shutout bid Friday when Cincinnati's Jay Bruce homered with two outs in the ninth inning. Morton still got the win, with the loss going to Bronson Arroyo.

With that in mind, here's an interesting note from the folks at Elias Sports Bureau: The last Pirates player before Morton to lose a shutout on a ninth-inning homer was ... Arroyo. On Oct. 2, 2001, Arroyo served up a solo shot to the Mets' Jay Payton with two outs in the ninth in a 10-1 Pirates victory in New York.

Also, Morton's complete game win Friday came in the 13th game of the season. Last year, it took 91 games before the Pirates got their first (and only) complete game from a starting pitcher. Paul Maholm beat Houston on July 18.

Beimel's back

Lefty reliever Joe Beimel made his season debut in the sixth inning Saturday. He had been out since the middle of spring training due to soreness in his forearm and elbow.

"I was a little jumpy (against) the first couple guys," Beimel admitted.

Joe Votto hit a leadoff triple, and Jonny Gomes clubbed a two-run homer. After that, Beimel got two strikeouts and a ground out.

"My slider was definitely there. That's probably the best it's been in a couple of years," Beimel said. "I just wanted to get that one under my belt. I'm not happy with it, but it's something to build on."

Road-field advantage

Lyle Overbay always has been productive when facing the Reds, against whom he has a .401 career batting average.

"I've been trying to figure it out, but I can't explain it," said Overbay, grinning. "Maybe it's the ballpark."

Overbay has hit safely in 14 of 17 games at Great American Ball Park. He's batting .400 with five doubles, four homers, 16 RBI and 16 runs scored.

It's not like the Reds have brought up a bunch of minor league scrubs to pitch against Overbay.

"I've faced pitchers who've owned me when they pitched for other teams," Overbay said. "But when they come over here, I get hits. They throw the same stuff as everyone else does, but I get hits. And I have no idea why."

Spot starter

Right-hander Jeff Karstens will start today in place of Ross Ohlendorf (upper back), who's on the disabled list.

Last year, Karstens was 1-6 in 11 starts on the road and allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of those games. He got 31 runs of support when he was on the mound in his starts away from PNC Park, including 14 runs in his final road start of the season — Aug. 31 at Wrigley Field.

Manager Clint Hurdle said Karstens has the right mentality to succeed as a starter or reliever.

"The guys I've had who are able to do it just didn't have an agenda, like, 'I'm a starter, and I've always been a starter,' " Hurdle said. "He's been very flexible. He has the ability to throw three or four pitches, which lends itself to performing in either role.

"Jeff's also a bigger student of the game than I think people give him credit for. He uses his eyes very well, and he asks good questions."

Additional Information:

Scouting report

Pirates at Reds

1:10 p.m today, Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati

TV/radio: Root Sports/WPGB-FM (104.7), WCNS-AM (1480), WJPA-AM (1450), Pirates Radio Network, XM 175

Probable starters: Pirates RHP Jeff Karstens (1-0, 0.00) vs. Reds RHP Edinson Volquez (2-0, 5.82)

Next: 7:10 p.m. Monday at Reds

 

 

 
 


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