BRADENTON, Fla. -- Charlie Morton thinks he has found a new weapon against left-handed hitters, and the fact it backfired on him twice on Sunday is not going to make him holster it.
"He made a commitment to using that two-seamer inside [to left-handed hitters in Boston's lineup]," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's the thing we hadn't seen him do in the past. And he threw it 10 times, with intent, purpose, conviction …"
… And twice with frustrating results. Placed so well and with so much movement, that pitch tied up lefty slugger Mike Carp so badly in the first inning that all he could do was squib an opposite-field grounder just to the left of the third-base bag. But with third baseman Pedro Alvarez shifted near the shortstop hole, it went for an infield single.
That became harmless. But the next time a left-handed hitter punched one to the opposite side of the infield, Travis Shaw with one out in the second, Alvarez was close enough to field it, but flubbed it for an error. That extended the inning for Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two-run single with two outs.
Hurdle still admired Morton's moxie.
"His rhythm may not have been as good as it was the first couple of times out," said Hurdle, citing Morton's pair of shutout starts covering five innings, "but even on days when he doesn't feel like he's where he wants to be, he still competes and is still going to give us innings and a chance to win. He made one pitch he'd like to have back."
That was the one Carp lifted high over the straightaway-right fence for a solo homer in the third.
"When I was ahead of hitters, everything turned out OK. The problem was, I didn't get ahead of many hitters," said Morton, who delivered first-pitch strikes to half of the 16 men he faced.
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.