Morton could step into limited relief role for Pirates

Morton could step into limited relief role for Pirates

ST. LOUIS -- Charlie Morton's one rehab start, on Thursday with Double-A Altoona, reflected his last three months with the Bucs: The results looked a lot better than how he felt.

Even while dealing with his sports hernia, Morton allowed two runs in four innings while exhibiting sharp command (one walk vs. six strikeouts).

Afterward, the righty and Pirates staff concurred that he didn't experience sufficient physical progress to make his return to the rotation a consideration.

Which brings up the question: Why would Morton be down for a simulated game, of up to 75 pitches, here on Tuesday?

Most obviously, the Pirates want Morton to keep his arm sharp, just in case.

It is also possible that the club would consider adding him to an expanded bullpen and use him in relief. Morton has no history in that role -- his only relief appearance came as a rookie with the Braves in 2008. But he acknowledged that the discomfort from the hernia grows the longer he pitches, both "from the ups and downs as a starter, and from pitches thrown."

In a very limited role, the sinkerballing Morton would pair with Jared Hughes to give manager Clint Hurdle a second September option when he needs someone to come out of bullpen to throw a double-play pitch.

Tom Singer is a reporter for 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.