Morton enjoyed being in zone against Jays

Morton enjoyed being in zone against Jays

Morton enjoyed being in zone against Jays
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Free to rely on his sinker again, Charlie Morton is finding early success being efficient and effective in Grapefruit League action.

In his two spring starts so far, Morton has been noticeably more aggressive than he was early last season. That tendency to nibble around the plate isn't as evident, and that is entirely intentional.

Rather, Morton is feeling more comfortable pitching to contact with his sinker. It's been his go-to pitch when he's fallen behind in the count and when runners have been on base. And more often than not, Morton has gotten encouraging results.

"I think when I get that good sinker action, it allows me to be more aggressive in the zone," said Morton, who has induced three double plays in five innings this spring. "I don't have to be too fine. I can be more over the plate, just down in the zone."

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Being around the strike zone with regularity kept Morton efficient in his three-inning start on Thursday. He threw only 25 pitches -- 19 were strikes -- and faced just one hitter over the minimum. He attacked the Blue Jays with a heavy dose of sinkers and four-seam fastballs.

"He's letting the ball work for him now," Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's kept the ball down with great regularity. It's great to see him out there competing and feeling good about himself."

Under the advice of former pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, Morton stopped throwing the sinker -- a pitch he had used the two seasons prior. Morton now hopes it's no coincidence that his 2010 struggles coincided with the absence of the pitch.

Morton began throwing the sinker again when he was sent down to the Minors following his 1-9 start with the Pirates. Morton used it, as well, when he returned to Pittsburgh for the final month of the season. There are no plans to harness the pitch again.

"I just need to make better pitches," Morton said. "I'm not a finesse guy. I'm not a control guy. When I can be in the zone and aggressive, that's when I'm throwing down in the zone and guys are beating balls in the ground. I wasn't doing that early last year."