Charlie Morton and the split-change

When it comes to spring training and topics that may or may not matter, Charlie Morton's approach to left-handed hitters is definitely something worth keeping an eye on. Ever since Morton dropped his arm-slot and moved to his sinker-heavy approach in 2011, he's had a lot of trouble getting left-handed hitters out. The main reason for that is that he's never really been able to develop a third pitch to go with his sinker and breaking ball, which leaves him vulnerable to lefties. His elbow injury in 2012 didn't help a whole lot on this front; for much of 2011 he was still adjusting to his new approach and for much of 2013 he was re-gaining his command after the surgery. 

Anyway, all of that is just a lead in for me to tell you to check out Travis Sawchik's story about Morton's spring start against the Tigers on Tuesday in which he broke out a split-change at least once. Morton definitely used the split-change some in 2011 (I remember some talk about it on the broadcast and I mentioned it a bunch in this post here), but I don't remember him using it a whole lot in 2013. He's also tried to use a cutter to keep lefties off-balance in the past, though that wasn't terribly successful. 

This sort of thing is tricky to try and follow during spring training. If Morton does have a new split-change that he feels comfortable with, it's possible that he keeps it mostly under wraps in spring games to try and preserve a surprise for games that matter. It's also possible that we should take him at his word that he's really trying to develop a feel for it and at this point he only feels comfortable throwing it once a game, to lefties like Don Kelly. In general, though, I've got a feeling that Morton's quest for a third pitch is going to be a recurring storyline for the Pirates in 2014. He's got a fairly prominent role in the rotation now without AJ Burnett, and if he can add some depth to the grounder-heavy righty-killer that can occasionally turn in a gem, the Bucs will be much better off for it. 

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.