Morton ready to move on from injury bug

Morton ready to move on from injury bug

PITTSBURGH -- Finally the incessant questions about the progress of his nagging left hamstring strain can stop, and right-hander Charlie Morgan can just go out and pitch.

And don't underestimate how much he's looking forward to exactly that.

"I want to pitch," said Morton, who was officially cleared on Saturday to start Sunday's series finale against the Royals. "I am here to do a job, and I would like to be able to do it."

Morton has managed to stay in the headlines since being traded to the Pirates on June 3 and making his debut for the organization on June 10. However, it's not been under the best of circumstances.

That June 10 start lasted just one inning after Morton suffered a left hamstring strain warming up in Atlanta. He skipped his next start, tossed five decent innings against Colorado on June 20 and was then pushed back two days from his scheduled start on Friday to give his hamstring a bit more time to heal.

"It's a tribute to Charlie that he wants to get on the mound," manager John Russell said. "He wants to compete. He also understands that one or two starts isn't a make or break for him or us. We want to make sure he's OK, which is why we pushed it back to make sure he was OK."

Morton threw a bullpen session on Friday, and though he still feels a bit of discomfort in his hamstring (which was expected), everyone involved seems convinced that the injury will have no affect on Morton's ability to pitch.

If anything, the only remaining concern -- and it's minimal -- is Morton's ability to move around in the field. It was that worry that prompted Russell to pull Morton out prematurely in that June 10 outing.

But Morton's movement has been tested extensively this week, and he's reported to be feeling much more comfortable running.

"The main thing is that he feels very comfortable pitching and that he can get to first base to cover," Russell said. "He seems to feel very good doing that. He's very adamant about pitching."

Despite the fact that it lasted only five innings, Morton's most recent outing gave the Pirates much to be intrigued about. The right-hander featured an at-times-devastating sinking fastball clocked in the mid-90s, and even after a layoff, Morton was able to limit the Rockies to two runs on five hits in five innings. He struck out four.

"He pitched five innings against the hottest team in the world and only gave up two runs," Russell said. "So, it's going to be kind of scary to see him when he's 100 percent."

At the time, Colorado had won 15 of 16.

Pitching matchup
PIT: RHP Charlie Morton (0-0, 3.00 ERA)
Originally scheduled to pitch on Friday, Morton was pushed back to Sunday in order to give his nagging left hamstring a few extra days to recover. Morton has already missed a start due to the injury and was limited to just one inning in one of the two starts he has made since joining the Pirates. Morton threw 88 pitches in five innings his last time out, showing a nasty sinking fastball in the process. Morton has never faced the Royals, but he is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two career Interleague starts.

KC: RHP Zack Greinke (9-3, 1.90 ERA)
For the first time in five starts, Greinke notched a victory, and it came as he went eight innings to beat the Astros, 2-1. Looking more like the pitcher who started out with an 8-1 record this season, Greinke allowed only a first-inning run, pitched out of a few jams, struck out five and walked none. One thing that seemed to help was resuming his inside attack; he said he worked inside to every batter and only two of those pitches resulted in base hits. Greinke was used as the No. 8 hitter at Houston (he went 0-for-3) and he gets another chance to swing at Pittsburgh. He's 3-for-15 in his career.

Bucs bits
Injured catcher Ryan Doumit took batting practice with his teammates on the field on Saturday, the first time he has done so since undergoing right wrist surgery in April. Doumit will begin rehab work in Bradenton, Fla., beginning on Tuesday and will play in some Gulf Coast League games and participate in some simulated games down there through Saturday. Since the GCL Pirates are off on Sunday and the Pirates don't want Doumit to take a day off, he'll then leave to join either Triple-A Indianapolis or Double-A Altoona on Sunday. ... The Pirates have promoted right-handers Quinton Miller (28th round pick in 2008) and Diego Moreno from short-season State College to low Class A West Virginia. ... Catcher Tony Sanchez, who was the fourth-overall selection in this year's First-Year Player Draft, made his debut with West Virginia on Saturday. Sanchez joined the Power after traveling to Wichita, Kan., for the Johnny Bench Award ceremony. The award, which goes to the top collegiate catcher, went to Oklahoma's J.T. Wise. Sanchez was one of three finalists.

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Up next
• Monday: Pirates (Zach Duke, 8-5, 3.09) vs. Cubs (Rich Harden, 4-4, 4.95), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Pirates (Ross Ohlendorf, 6-6, 4.75) vs. Cubs (Ted Lilly, 7-5, 3.41), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Pirates (Virgil Vasquez, 1-0, 3.00) vs. Cubs (Randy Wells, 2-3, 2.57), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.