CHICAGO -- Charlie Morton will remain in the Pirates' rotation for the time being -- at minimum through his next start on Saturday -- but he'll be pitching with a checklist.
Atop the Pirates' priorities is getting Morton to pitch more aggressively. One of the primary issues in Morton's troublesome 3 1/3-innings return from the Minors on Sunday was the degree to which the righty relied on his offspeed pitches. For a guy who has overpowering ability, Morton's dependency on his secondary pitches has been baffling.
Though Morton's problems have been much more pronounced this year, his use of his fastball has actually decreased in each of the past two seasons. In 2008, 64.6 percent of Morton's pitches were two-seam or four-seam fastballs. In 2009, that percentage dipped to 56.7. This year, it's at 52.2 percent, meaning that Morton is going away from the fastball on about every other pitch he throws.
Morton's lack of aggressiveness on Sunday was mostly his own doing. He shook off catcher Ryan Doumit repeatedly early on, before Doumit began playing into Morton's less aggressive game plan later in the outing.
"You have to have conviction in what you throw, but you also have to trust what the catcher is doing," manager John Russell said. "Charlie was doing what he felt he needed to do. As he continues to progress, he needs to learn to trust his catcher a little more. He needs to learn to trust himself a little more.
"As a catcher, it's tough when you're being shaken off by the pitcher," Russell said. "You're trying to get what he wants to do because you don't want him to shake, but you also know what you want to do, so it's a battle.
"[Doumit] kind of wanted Charlie to throw a game and see what he's doing, and let him kind of take the game and see where he took it. Now we have a pretty good indication of what we need to focus on, not only with his pitches, but also with the mental part."
Russell said he will pair Morton up with catcher Chris Snyder in Morton's start next weekend in hopes that tandem will have more success in carrying out an aggressive game plan.