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04/05/11 1:00 AM ET

Morton shines in 2011 debut

ST. LOUIS -- There were a lot of people pleased to see Pirates starter Charlie Morton's impressive performance on Monday night at Busch Stadium.

Morton picked up his first win in his first start of the regular season, allowing one run on three hits over six innings in Pittsburgh's 4-3 victory.

"I learned a lot from last year from going through a lot of bad outings, a lot of failure," Morton said. "I learned a lot mentally and then physically in Spring Training. We lowered my arm slot a little bit, trying to make me throw a little more natural. The ball is coming out a lot better, and it's going well so far."

Last season was not a good one for the right-hander, who made 17 starts and went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA.

Morton made changes in the offseason and had a strong showing in Spring Training to show for it. The 27-year-old went 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings. He allowed just 15 hits and held opponents to a .183 average.

His season debut on Monday saw him strike out two and walk five, which drove up his pitch count, but Morton left the game with a 4-1 lead, and the bullpen turned that into a win.

"What Charlie did out there today was awesome," closer Joel Hanrahan said. "I told him it was fun to watch. When Charlie believes in himself and believes in his stuff, that's what he can do, because his stuff is so good out there. He's riding off that confidence he had in Spring Training and feeling good."

Center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who hit the deciding homer, was among the teammates happy for Morton.

"This is his first start and a good win for him," McCutchen said. "It's good that he can have a good start like this and start off quick and get some wins and just get the confidence. ... He went out and he did a great job. It's good to be able to see that."

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle spoke before Monday's game about seeing a confident Morton take the mound in Spring Training and was eager to see how those early results would translate into the season.

"I just heard all the stories and I had watched the tape," Hurdle said. "This guy, when he got over the mound in Spring Training, he had a different look to him than he had the year before."

Nate Latsch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.