The Charlie Morton Situation, as it stands, is as such: Morton, when healthy, has generally dominated right-handed hitting with his nasty sinker/curveball combination. He’s always struggled with lefties, though, because he’s never really developed the strong third pitch that’s necessary for sinkerballers to succeed against off-handed hitters. There are pretty explainable reasons for this. In 2011, he was busy focusing on the rebuilding of his approach, in 2012 he got hurt, and in 2013 he was simply trying to get back to where he was pre-injury. He has, in the past, messed around with two different change-ups (circle and split) and a cutter, with the intent of keeping lefties more off-balance.
Spring training reports told us that Morton had focused on the split-change this off-season and threw a couple of nice-looking ones in Grapefruit League games. Because Morton’s four-seam fastball emerged as more of a weapon last year, thanks to the velocity bump from his repaired elbow, I think focusing on the change-up makes quite a bit of sense. Morton spent a bunch of time at Pirate City and not pitching in Grapefruit League games during the middle of spring training, which makes me wonder if he was honing his new pitch away from the public eye in hopes of gaining a bit of a surprise edge to start the season.
The Cubs present an awfully interesting first test for Morton. They’ve stacked their lineup tonight with five lefties, plus switch-hitting Emilio Bonifacio. They’re still the Cubs, but at the very least Nate Schierholtz and Anthony Rizzo pose some challenges for Morton today. I’ll be really interested to see how Morton approaches these lefties today.
Edwin Jackson will start for the Cubs. The Pirates saw Jackson four times last year, and he more or less kept them in check except for the second time he faced them. Obviously, they are at the very least familiar with the guy. The Pirates’ lineup is the same today as it was on Monday. The first pitch tonight is at 7:05.
Image credit: John Lloyd, Flickr