BRADENTON, Fla. -- Charlie Morton's first start -- in the Pirates' 10th spring game -- may not have been smooth, but in keeping with the rest of Pittsburgh's starting pitchers, it was spotless.Morton put up two zeroes on Monday against the Phillies -- stretching the Pittsburgh starters' scoreless streak to 10 innings -- despite allowing singles to four of the first six men he faced. He picked a man off second to diffuse one threat, and made some clutch pitches to escape another. "I got into some situations I did not want to be in, but being able to get out of them was a good thing," Morton said following the most significant step yet in his comeback from hip surgery in October. "Now I can start zeroing in on what I didn't do well and need to work on." With men on first and second and one out in the first, Morton pivoted away from batter Laynce Nix to see Juan Pierre so far off second that for an instant both froze. Pierre didn't know where to run, and Morton didn't know where to throw.
I thought, 'My God, does he know what's going on?' I debated whether to throw to third or to second," said Morton, who went to second to easily erase Pierre.
McKenry stars in exhibition win over Dutch
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The International Baseball Tournament turned into the Michael McKenry show on Monday.
The Pirates' catcher drove in six runs in the Bucs' 8-2 victory over The Netherlands at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg.McKenry belted a two-run homer and a three-run triple in support of pitcher Jeff Karstens, who went four shutout innings in the unofficial game. Remaining official, however, was the relationship between the battery mates. It was cemented when McKenry made the trip to St. Petersburg to continue catching Karstens.
Defensive gems put a gloss on the Bucs' 4-1 loss to the Phillies on Monday. Clint Barmes saved a couple of runs with a smooth play on a two-out grounder in the second. Neil Walker, showing off the health of his lower back, made multiple diving stops at second. And catcher Tony Sanchez thwarted two steal attempts with bullet throws off releases that prompted manager Clint Hurdle to rave, "I haven't seen any catcher unload faster." Tom Prince, the Bucs' Minor League catching coordinator and Gulf Coast League manager, was presented with the second annual Chuck Tanner We-Are-Fam-a-lee Fund Award prior to Monday's game. The family of the former Pirates manager established the fund upon his passing in February 2011 and presented it to a Minor League staffer who exemplifies the late managerial great's "optimism, enthusiasm, work ethic and leadership." Mike Lum was the first award recipient last year. Brad Lincoln (tightness in right calf) and Kyle McPherson (dead-arm symptoms) were both morning scratches from their scheduled appearances against the Phillies. The status of both is day-to-day. Chris Resop, Tony Watson and Rudy Owens picked up their intended innings. Since Monday's start was the first for Charlie Morton, Hurdle went back to using a DH, with Garrett Jones doing the honors. That got both Jones and first baseman Casey McGehee in the lineup, batting back-to-back. Combined, they went 0-for-5. McGehee and catcher Eric Fryer were the only starters without a strikeout, as the Phillies wound up with a dozen.
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.