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Pirates starting pitcher Morton's rehab is ahead of schedule

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Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012
 

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates had to draw up a new rehab schedule for right-hander Charlie Morton, who had hip surgery in October.

"He's ahead of schedule, from what we mapped out before," manager Clint Hurdle said Monday. "He's knocked down every challenge we've put in front of him. There's been no hesitation, no setback. The velocity and arm strength are showing signs of a guy who's in a good place."

The typical recovery time for Morton's type of surgery is four to six months. In early January, it seemed likely that Morton wouldn't rejoin the rotation until late April.

But Morton's performance on the field -- he yesterday threw a 35-pitch bullpen session, his fifth time on the mound since the surgery -- is raising hopes he'll be back by Opening Day.

"Every side session has gotten better," Morton said. "I feel good. My arm strength is where it should be at this point."

> > To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for A.J. Burnett, shortstop Gustavo Nunez was placed on the 60-day disabled list with an injured right ankle. Nunez was nicked up in December when the Pirates claimed him from Detroit in the Rule 5 draft.

> > Burnett has worn No. 34 since high school; his alma mater, Central Arkansas High, retired the number in December 2002. To get those digits with the Pirates, Burnett will work out a deal with reliever Daniel McCutchen, who switched to No. 25.

"I took a jersey (number) from a young kid, so I'm looking forward to teasing him about that," Burnett said.

> > Right-hander Gerrit Cole, the top pick in last year's draft, threw his first bullpen session Monday. Rod Barajas caught Cole, who was studied intently by minor-league pitching coordinator Jim Benedict and a sizable crowd of fans.

"I threw a couple of sides down here last week, but that was before spring training started," Cole said. "This is a whole different setting. It felt great."

> > Reliever Chris Resop, who missed the first spring training workout because of a stomach virus, was back in action Monday. Catcher Ramon Cabrera, who was a late arrival because of a missed flight connection, also is in camp.

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