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Morton keeps rolling, pitches four scoreless

| Saturday, March 24, 2012

BRADENTON, Fla. - Charlie Morton showed yet another strong sign that he'll be ready for the start of the Pirates' season.

Morton, coming off offseason hip surgery, pitched four scoreless innings in a 7-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Friday at McKechnie Field. He allowed two singles, walked none and struck out two while throwing 55 pitches.

That lowered Morton's spring ERA to 5.00 but, far more important, kept him on schedule to be the team's fifth starter. If he is, he'll pitch April 11 in Los Angeles, a spot manager Clint Hurdle currently is keeping open.

"I feel fine," Morton said. "I want the ball. I'm hoping that, however much I'm behind, I'll pick that up by the end of spring training."

"We're still in the process of discussing how this will go," manager Clint Hurdle said. "This was a good one for Charlie."

Alvarez's knee flares

Struggling third baseman Pedro Alvarez will miss this weekend because of inflammation in his left knee, according to the team.

Hurdle said Alvarez was hurt after running out a grounder and stepping on first base awkwardly.

Alvarez, coming off a .191 season, has gone 4 for 30 with 13 strikeouts this spring. The team said he was lifted from the game Thursday after the sixth inning because of the knee trouble.

There's no indication the injury is serious. General manager Neal Huntington called Alvarez "not completely healthy."

Bedard eyes opener

Erik Bedard had little reaction to being named Opening Day starter. It will be his third such assignment, and he had trouble remembering much about the first two when asked.

"Any of our starters could have been the one," Bedard said. "But I'm going to take in the opportunity and do the best I can."

Other game highlights

> > Daniel McCutchen blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth in a big way, allowing six runs on five hits -- including a Quintin Berry grand slam - with a walk and a wild pitch.

> > Matt Hague kept up his push for a bench spot with his fourth home run, a two-run shot in the second inning. He's batting .438 with nine RBI.

> > Jose Tabata went 3 for 4 atop the order, raising his average to .286.

> > Joel Hanrahan, strong all spring, allowed a home run in the fifth to Detroit's Clete Thomas, but it was wind-aided in a big way.

> > The slider Hanrahan has been using is more of a "gyro" pitch, or backup slider, he said. Its rotation looks like it will pull away from a right-handed hitter, but it doesn't.

Additional Information:



1:05 p.m. today, McKechnie Field, Bradenton, Fla.

TV: Root Sports

Pirates pitcher: RHP James McDonald

Astros pitcher: RHP Kyle Weiland

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