LOS ANGELES -- Nearly one month into the Minor League season, the Pirates' best pitcher to date has been a right-hander who was among the organization's most disappointing performers last year.Bryan Morris tossed another seven scoreless innings in a start for high-Class A Bradenton on Friday to lower his season ERA to 0.98 through five starts. In 27 2/3 innings this year, Morris has walked three, while striking out 26. His ERA is the lowest among all starters in the Pirates' farm system. To put this into perspective, Morris finished '09 with a 5.57 ERA, having walked two more (34) than he struck out (32) in 72 2/3 innings at the high-Class A level. Morris' 2009 season began with a stint on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and it included an 11-game organization-instituted suspension for "unprofessional conduct." Unquestionably, the right-hander's stock dipped by the time the year came to an end. However, Morris responded by spending the offseason reworking both his body composition and his delivery, the latter of which has done wonders with his fastball command. Was that all it took for such a drastic turnaround? "I think that he finally got to a point where he said, 'I need to do some things differently,' and bought in," director of player development Kyle Stark said. "Ultimately, it's a testament to Bryan Morris for buying in." Morris' reemergence has made him look much more like the high-upside prospect the Pirates believed they were receiving when the Dodgers included him in the 2008 Jason Bay-Manny Ramirez trade. "After the delivery adjustments that Bryan has made, I think his upside is even higher than it was when we made the trade," Stark said. "We love what he's done to date. We have to remind ourselves that it's only been a month working with this new delivery in games that matter. We still have some work to do, but he's made good strides." If Morris continues to dominate the Florida State League, he isn't likely to stay there much longer. Stark said the organization wants to get Morris "significant innings" in Double-A this year, which suggests a promotion could be coming soon.
Pirates' Jones out after day at hospital
LOS ANGELES -- Garrett Jones spent Saturday afternoon at Memorial Medical Center after being unable to dislodge some food that got stuck in his esophagus on Friday night.According to manager John Russell, Jones wasn't able to fully swallow some food after Friday's game and continued to feel pain in his chest when he woke up on Saturday morning. That's when Jones checked himself into an area hospital around 1 p.m. PT and was diagnosed with an obstructed esophagus. Doctors were able to dislodge the food and provided Jones with some medicine during his hospital stay. He arrived at Dodger Stadium just before the start of Saturday's game and left during it to return to the hotel. Russell confirmed afterward that Jones would not have been able to pinch-hit in the game. "He was in good spirits," Russell said. "We'll see how he reacts. It was a long day for him." Jones' availability for Sunday's series finale will be determined once he arrives at the ballpark in the morning.
Russell anticipates calling up another bat
LOS ANGELES -- If the Pirates' starting pitching continues to stabilize, it looks as if the club will continue with a 13-man pitching staff for only a few more days. Manager John Russell said that he anticipates the club making a roster move early in the upcoming homestand to get an extra bat back on the bench.Pittsburgh has carried an extra reliever since Tuesday, when it was forced to designate John Raynor for assignment to make an opening for a spot-starter. Since then, though, the Pirates have gotten lengthier outings from their starters, which, in turn, has allowed the bullpen to collectively catch its breath. The cost of carrying an extra pitcher these last five days has been that the Pirates are playing with just a four-player bench. With one of those extra players being the backup catcher, Russell essentially has only three pinch-hitters to work with. "It kind of stung us in that extra-inning game a little bit," Russell said. "It does limit you sometimes when you have to use a guy early that you'd like to save. I'm hoping we get someone here the first series if we can." Steve Pearce and Neil Walker, both of whom have been raking against Triple-A pitching this season, would seem the most likely candidates for the callup. Either Brian Bass, who has pitched just once since being called up from Triple-A last Sunday, or Brian Burres is likely to be sent down.
Pirates counting on starters' performance
LOS ANGELES -- Not that the Pirates needed any further proof as to how much they continue to live and die by their starting pitching, but here it is anyways.Heading into Saturday's game against the Dodgers, the Pirates are 8-0 when leading after four innings. In fact, they haven't lost this season when tied at any point after the fourth. In other words, when the Pirates' starters keep them in it, the team is likely to win. "When we get good pitching, we've got a good shot," manager John Russell said. "We've shown in close games that we can be pretty good. It gives us an opportunity for our offense and defense to win for us." Furthermore, the Pirates are 5-1 in one-run games this year and 2-0 in games decided by two runs. On the other hand, the common theme in most of the Pirates' 13 losses has been a struggling starter. Ten of the those losses has been by at least six runs.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.