PITTSBURGH -- What was speculated on by manager Clint Hurdle after Charlie Morton's start on Monday was made official one day later. Morton, Hurdle announced before Tuesday's game, will have his next start skipped.
The Pirates are taking advantage of two off-days -- one on Thursday, another next Monday -- to push Morton's next start back from Sunday to July 1. That will give the right-hander 10 days of rest before he takes the mound against the Nationals.
The timing of the pair of off-days also allows the Pirates to get by without calling up a spot starter from Triple-A Indianapolis. James McDonald, who started on Tuesday, will close out the homestand and throw on a normal four days' rest on Sunday. Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm and Jeff Karstens will start during the team's three-game series in Toronto from June 28-30.
"I've had some experience with a young staff developing at the Major League level," Hurdle said. "Charlie has pitched a very large volume of innings for his history. I believe it's more just road wear than anything else. You find ways to try and find preventative maintenance of injury. That's what we're trying to do."
It's been obvious through the results of Morton's last three outings that something hasn't been quite right with the right-hander. Hurdle believes fatigue is the biggest issue, and has led directly to Morton leaving too many pitches up. Morton has logged 84 innings this season (an average of six a start) after pitching just 43 1/3 in his first 11 starts last season before going on the disabled list at the end of May.
Morton threw a total of 159 2/3 innings combined between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis last season, and the Pirates do not want him to shoot past that innings count too quickly this year.
While the Pirates do not need a spot starter at the moment, Hurdle did say the club will have to find someone to cover one of the games during a July 2 doubleheader against the Nationals. Brad Lincoln, who is on the 40-man roster, has allowed only one earned run in each of his last three outings. He seems the likeliest to earn the callup. Brian Burres, Garrett Olson, Justin Wilson and Rudy Owens were also all mentioned by general manager Neal Huntington as candidates.