It had been assumed for a while that Morton was going to fill the vacancy, given how well he's pitched this spring and how little Scott Olsen has been able to do. But now Morton has some tangible assurance - an April 4 matchup against the Cardinals.
"I feel different from last year in the sense that I feel more confident going into the season," Morton said. "I think there were some questions last year in my mind going into the season, but I think getting beat up last year kind of taught me a lot of things. I'm really looking forward to getting on the mound. I'm really excited."
Morton has stood out among the Pirates' starters this spring. He has pitched as well as anyone, and the Pirates are hopeful that his results - two earned runs allowed on nine hits in 14 innings - are a reflection of where he's headed.
Working with pitching coach Ray Searage, Morton has done everything he can to erase the disappointment and frustration he endured in 2010. A year after winning only two games and posting a 7.47 ERA in 17 starts, Morton has found success through a change in his arm angle and with the help of his sinker. And maybe more important than anything, he walks around now with a renewed confidence in his abilities.
"What happened last year on the mound forced me to put things in perspective, forced me to grow up a little bit," Morton said. "Any opportunity I get, I want to make the best of it. I honestly can say that I did everything I could last year, but what I was doing just didn't work. It could have gone for the better or for the worst, but right now I feel really good about where I'm at."