CHICAGO -- Charlie Morton will remain in the Pirates' rotation for the time being -- at minimum through his next start on Saturday -- but he'll be pitching with a checklist.
Atop the Pirates' priorities is getting Morton to pitch more aggressively. One of the primary issues in Morton's troublesome 3 1/3-innings return from the Minors on Sunday was the degree to which the righty relied on his offspeed pitches. For a guy who has overpowering ability, Morton's dependency on his secondary pitches has been baffling.
Though Morton's problems have been much more pronounced this year, his use of his fastball has actually decreased in each of the past two seasons. In 2008, 64.6 percent of Morton's pitches were two-seam or four-seam fastballs. In 2009, that percentage dipped to 56.7. This year, it's at 52.2 percent, meaning that Morton is going away from the fastball on about every other pitch he throws.
Morton's lack of aggressiveness on Sunday was mostly his own doing. He shook off catcher Ryan Doumit repeatedly early on, before Doumit began playing into Morton's less aggressive game plan later in the outing.
"You have to have conviction in what you throw, but you also have to trust what the catcher is doing," manager John Russell said. "Charlie was doing what he felt he needed to do. As he continues to progress, he needs to learn to trust his catcher a little more. He needs to learn to trust himself a little more.
"As a catcher, it's tough when you're being shaken off by the pitcher," Russell said. "You're trying to get what he wants to do because you don't want him to shake, but you also know what you want to do, so it's a battle.
"[Doumit] kind of wanted Charlie to throw a game and see what he's doing, and let him kind of take the game and see where he took it. Now we have a pretty good indication of what we need to focus on, not only with his pitches, but also with the mental part."
Russell said he will pair Morton up with catcher Chris Snyder in Morton's start next weekend in hopes that tandem will have more success in carrying out an aggressive game plan.
Most of the swelling gone from Meek's wrist
CHICAGO -- Evan Meek still has some swelling on the area of his right hand that was struck by a line drive on Sunday. But the swelling continues to subside, leaving Meek convinced he won't be sidelined long.
Meek, who was hit on the back of his hand, near the knuckle of his pinkie, will undergo treatment for the next few days. The right-hander doesn't feel pain moving his fingers, but he still can only clench his fist about 75 percent of the way closed. That is, however, an improvement over Sunday night, when Meek couldn't close his hand at all.
"A lot of progress since then," Meek reported on Monday. "I'm waiting for the swelling to go down, and then to be able to grip the ball without having any pain. Hopefully it's going to be only a few days, and then I should be able to get back on the mound. It shouldn't be that long."
The Pirates have no plans to place Meek on the disabled list, as the team still has a seven-man bullpen without him. Pittsburgh can also bring relief reinforcement when rosters expand on Wednesday.
The Brewers' Ryan Braun, who was batting when Meek got hit, phoned Meek on Sunday evening to check on the reliever, and was relieved to hear that Meek hadn't suffered any broken bones in the incident. The two got to know each other before the All-Star Game, when Meek traveled with Braun and Milwaukee's other All-Stars on the private jet of Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio.
"I thought it hit him in the chest or the sternum," Braun said. "I just know he said that nothing's broken, which is definitely good news. You never want to see anyone get hurt like that."
Karstens prepared to make start on Tuesday
CHICAGO -- After having his start skipped last week, Jeff Karstens will make his return to the rotation on Tuesday.
Karstens said that the "cranky" sensation in his pitching arm that prompted the Pirates to keep the right-hander out of his last start has subsided entirely. Karstens was able to go through his normal routine -- side session, exercises and light throwing -- over the past four days to get ready for his return.
"We'll see how it goes tomorrow," Karstens said, prior to the Pirates' series opener on Monday.
When Karstens takes the hill on Tuesday, he'll do so looking to snap an 11-game winless streak that goes back to June 19. During those past 11 starts, Karstens is 0-8 with a 5.22 ERA. Opponents have batted .315 against him during the stretch.
State College manager now Internet sensation
CHICAGO -- Despite sitting four games under .500 after 68 games, the Pirates' short-season affiliate in State College (Pa.) has garnered plenty of national attention in recent days. That's all thanks to Spikes manager Gary Robinson, whose recent post-ejection antics have rapidly become a YouTube and Internet sensation.
The theater played out on Friday, after Robinson initially emerged from the dugout to argue a call with home-plate umpire Roberto Ortiz. Ortiz had awarded first base to a Batavia player, saying that Spikes pitcher Brooks Pounders had hit the player on the hand. Robinson argued that the pitch had struck the knob of the bat.
Robinson eventually headed back to the dugout, but said something in the process that got him ejected. That's when the fun began.
Robinson stormed back out to the field, spending time covering home plate with dirt. He then marched down to first base and pulled the bag out of the ground. On his way to the dugout with the base, Robinson took a pen out of his jersey, autographed the base and handed it to a fan in the stands.
The Centre Daily Times identified the fan as 13-year-old Dan Kozar, who is shown on the circulating videos proudly holding up his souvenir.
"Impulsively you do things," Robinson told the Times after the game. "I was walking to first base and I spotted the kid. I said, 'OK, I'm going to do it.' It was just an impulsive thing I did. It wasn't planned.
"Sometimes you do things to make a point," he added. "At the same time, there's a lot of times you regret what you do. I tried to give my ballclub a shot in the arm. There's a lot of reasons I did what I did."
Robinson's actions have brought back references to one of the most animated Minor League ejections in recent years, when Double-A Mississippi manager Phillip Wellman lost his temper in 2007.
The Pirates still do not have an estimated return date for Triple-A right-hander Brad Lincoln, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 20 with neck stiffness/soreness.
Initially, it was believed that Lincoln would have just one start skipped. However, manager John Russell relayed on Monday that Lincoln's neck is still achy, and that the right-hander is not yet ready to return.
Lincoln was expected to be called up when rosters expand in September, though now it doesn't appear as if he'd arrive in Pittsburgh until -- at the earliest -- after the Triple-A season ends on Sept. 6.
Other Minor League news and notes:
Rinku Singh has been promoted to short-season State College, where the left-handed pitcher will finish the year. Singh, one of two players the Pirates signed out of India in November 2008, is the first of the pair to be bumped up from the organization's Gulf Coast League team. Singh made 13 appearances with the GCL Pirates this season and posted a 2.61 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. He walked eight and struck out 20.
Outfielder Adalberto Santos was named the New York-Penn League hitter of the week on Monday for his performance last week. Santos, the organization's 22nd-round Draft pick in 2010, reached base in 16 of his 26 plate appearances while going 8-for-18 with six runs scored, four extra-base hits and two RBIs.
Though Jeff Clement (left knee irritation) has been cleared to take batting practice with the team, manager John Russell described him as progressing only "slowly." Clement's knee is not bothering him when he swings, but it is affecting him when he runs. Clement is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sept. 5, but isn't expected to be activated that early. ... Russell said that a final decision on whether Ross Ohlendorf will pitch again this season should be made within the next 10 days. It still seems highly unlikely Ohlendorf will, given that the Minor League seasons will be over and he won't have a place to go and build up his arm strength. ... The Pirates entered this series with a 4-2 record at Wrigley Field this season. The only other city where the Pirates have a winning record in 2010 is Colorado, where Pittsburgh took a three-game series in late July.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.