PITTSBURGH -- It was only one rehab start, Charlie Morton's first in fact, but Clint Hurdle couldn't suppress his enthusiasm Friday afternoon as he went through the glossy report stemming from it.
Bradenton pitching coach Justin Meccage's rundown of Morton's three-inning start for the Marauders Thursday night had to have the Bucs counting the days until the right-hander's return.
Start with the fact Morton dialed his fastball up to 97 mph. Prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in June, Morton's fastballs averaged in the mid-90s, tops.
"He was 92-to-97 [on Thursday]," Hurdle said, repeating for emphasis, "ninety-seven. It was very encouraging. A very good first step."
Morton's target was 50 pitches and he needed only 44 to get through three innings, so he made up the difference in a post-stint bullpen session.
"He was amped up," Hurdle said, scanning Meccage's report on his desk. "He settled down as he got more into it. The sinker had good, late life; the changeup came with very good arm-speed and sink. He threw just enough secondary pitches to complement the fastball."
In addition to the fastball speed, Morton's cutter ranged 86-90 mph, the breaking ball 78-81 and the change 87-89.
Morton had remarkable command, throwing strikes on 22 of 28 fastballs, four of five curves, one of two changeups and six of nine cutters.
This initial appearance started Morton's 30-day rehabilitation clock ticking.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.