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Charlie Morton (pitcher)

Charles Alfred Morton IV[1] (born November 12, 1983) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, and Houston Astros. Morton was an All-Star in 2018 and 2019.

Charlie Morton
Charlie Morton 2018.jpg
Morton with the Houston Astros in 2018
Tampa Bay Rays – No. 50
Pitcher
Born: (1983-11-12) November 12, 1983 (age 36)
Flemington, New Jersey
Bats: Right Throws: Right
MLB debut
June 14, 2008, for the Atlanta Braves
MLB statistics
(through 2019 season)
Win–loss record91–87
Earned run average4.07
Strikeouts1,234
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Amateur careerEdit

Morton was born in Flemington, New Jersey to Jeanne and Chip Morton, an accountant and former Penn State basketball player. His grandfather played in the Philadelphia Athletics farm system.[2] He was raised in Trumbull, Connecticut, where he played in little league with future major leaguers pitcher Craig Breslow and infielder Jamie D'Antona.[3] Morton grew up attending ballgames at Yankee Stadium and idolizing Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens.[4] Morton attended Joel Barlow High School in Redding, Connecticut, where he starred as a pitcher, graduating in 2002.

Professional careerEdit

Atlanta BravesEdit

The Atlanta Braves selected Morton in the third round, with the 95th overall selection, of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft. He started his professional career in 2002 with the GCL Braves. In 2003, he played for the Danville Braves. He spent the 2004 and 2005 seasons with the Rome Braves. In 2006, he pitched for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. In 2007, he pitched for the Mississippi Braves.

 
Morton with the Braves in 2008

The Braves added Morton to their 40-man roster on November 20, 2007.[5] Morton made his major league debut on June 14, 2008, against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, allowing three runs in six innings, earning his first major league win.[6][7]

Pittsburgh PiratesEdit

On June 3, 2009, the Braves traded Morton with Gorkys Hernández and Jeff Locke to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Nate McLouth.[8] He made his first start with the Pirates on June 10, pitching an inning against the Atlanta Braves, while Jeff Karstens got the win. On June 28, he received his first decision, a loss to the Kansas City Royals. On July 3, 2009, he won his first game, pitching 6 innings of 1 hit ball against the Florida Marlins. On September 30, 2009, he pitched a complete game 4 hitter with 8 strikeouts against the Chicago Cubs. His 2009 record in 18 starts was 5 wins and 9 losses, a 4.55 ERA, 97 innings pitched and 62 strikeouts, 40 walks, 7 home runs, 5 hit batsmen, .276 average against, and a 1.46 WHIP.[citation needed]

Morton broke 2010 spring training as a member of the Pirates' starting rotation. Morton struggled, losing all five starts in April and finishing the month with a 12.57 earned run average (ERA). However, Morton delivered a promising performance on April 30, 2010 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, striking out 8 in six innings of work while allowing six runs (only three earned) but was dealt a loss as the Pirates only provided him with two runs of support. He earned his first win of the season on May 5 against the Chicago Cubs, striking out three in a 4–2 decision. However, he lost each of his next four starts, dropping his record on the season to 1–9 with a 9.35 ERA. A day after suffering his 9th loss against the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates placed him on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder fatigue. After recovering, he was assigned to the Pirates Triple-A affiliate Indianapolis Indians.

Speaking before his first start with the Indians, Morton said "I was pressing. I wasn't being myself on the mound those last couple times I went out there in Pittsburgh. There was so much going on in my mind. At the end of last year, I finished strong, I got a glimpse of what I could do, truly, in the big leagues, going out there and going deep into games, being competitive, being someone who was pretty good. I wanted to be out there for myself and because I care about this team and organization. At the same time, though, after that last one, that last start, because I care about these guys is why, exactly, I knew I couldn't go back out there again."[9]

Morton was recalled when starter Ross Ohlendorf was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a shoulder injury. On his final start of the 2010 season, Morton compiled his finest pitching performance of the year, striking out a career-high nine batters in a 2–0 loss to the Florida Marlins on October 2. He finished the season with a 2–12 record and a 7.57 ERA, but in his final six starts of the season after being recalled in late August, he sported a 4.26 ERA.

2011 was Morton's best season yet, where he held a 10–10 record in 29 starts with a 3.83 ERA, earning the club's Breakout Player of the Year.[10] On April 15, Morton threw a complete game against the Cincinnati Reds. On May 18, again at Great American Ball Park, Morton threw a complete game-shutout, striking out 5 and giving up 5 hits.[11] Following the season, Morton underwent successful hip surgery to repair a torn labrum in October 2011, with a full recovery expected in 4–6 months. He was optimistic about returning before Opening Day.[12] However, he began the 2012 season on the disabled list, making his season debut on April 14. His season ended when he underwent Tommy John surgery on June 14, 2012.[13]

On June 13, 2013, Morton was activated off the DL. He picked up his first win of the season on June 18 in a shutout against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched ​5 13 innings giving up only 3 hits and no runs, while striking out 2. On July 22 and 27 Charlie won back-to-back games for the first time since May 7 and 18, 2011. On December 11, 2013, Morton signed a three-year contract to remain with the Pirates, with a club option for the 2017 season.[14] Morton was placed on the DL with right hip inflammation on August 17, 2014. At the time, he was 5–12 with a 3.84 ERA.[15] During the month of September, Morton needed hip surgery, effectively ending his 2014 season. In 26 starts on 2014, Morton hit 19 batsmen with pitches, which led the Majors along with a 6–12 record and a 3.72 ERA.

During 2015 Spring Training, Morton struggled thoroughly and began to experience inflammation in his recently surgically repaired hip. On April 5, 2015, the Pirates placed Morton on the 15-day disabled list.

Philadelphia PhilliesEdit

On December 12, 2015, the Pirates traded Morton to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for David Whitehead.[16] His season came to an abrupt end on April 23, 2016, when Morton suffered a hamstring injury running to first base in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, and was placed on the disabled list the next day.[17] On April 27, the Phillies announced Morton would miss the rest of the 2016 season with a torn hamstring.[18]

Houston AstrosEdit

On November 16, 2016, Morton signed a two-year, $14 million contract with the Houston Astros.[19] During the 2017 regular season, Morton made 25 starts, compiling a 14–7 record with a 3.62 ERA. He pitched ​146 23 innings and recorded 163 strikeouts. On October 16, 2017, Morton started Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. He lost the game, giving up 7 runs in ​3 23 innings.[20] On October 21, he won Game 7 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park, pitching five shutout innings with five strikeouts, sending the Astros to the World Series.[21] Morton started Game 4 of the World Series and pitched well over 6.1 innings, giving one earned run on 3 hits and 7 strikeouts in an eventual Astros loss. Morton's career reached a new apex when he pitched the final four innings in Game 7 of the World Series. He was credited as the winning pitcher, helping the Astros win their first World Series title.[22]

In 2018, Morton continued his successful stint with the Astros. On May 12, he set a personal record of 14 strikeouts over seven innings in a 6–1 victory against the Texas Rangers.[23] Entering the All-Star break third in the American League with 11 wins, 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings, and ninth in ERA (2.96), Morton was added to the AL roster for the 2018 MLB All-Star game. [24] Morton avoided serious injury in 2018, with only a short trip to the 10-day DL for shoulder discomfort. He pitched 167 innings, second only to his 2011 high of 171.2. Morton finished the regular season with a 3.13 ERA, a 15-3 win-loss record, and 201 strikeouts, all constituting career highs.[25]

Tampa Bay RaysEdit

On December 21, 2018, the Tampa Bay Rays signed Morton to a two-year, $30 million contract.[26] He made his debut as a Ray against the Astros on March 29, 2019, pitching five innings and earning the win as the Rays defeated the Astros 4–2.

On June 30 he was voted to his second All-Star team.[27] In 2019 he led all major league pitchers in home runs/9 innings pitched, at 0.694.[28] He set career highs in wins (16), ERA (3.05), innings (​194 23) and in strikeouts (240).

Pitching styleEdit

Morton's repertoire consisted in 2013 of a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a curveball, and a split-finger fastball, his speed maxing out in the low 90s.[29] Morton picked up the splitter in 2011, having previously thrown a changeup. He also has previously thrown a slider and a cutter.[30] Morton's sinker was his most common pitch, especially against right-handed hitters. His curveball was his most common pitch in a two strike count.[31]

Due to the changes in his delivery and the emphasis he has placed on the sinker, Morton drew comparisons to two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.[32] Pirates special assistant Jim Benedict had previously encouraged Morton to emulate Halladay's delivery during spring training. Morton featured his new sinker almost exclusively in his first starts of the 2011 season, resulting in an increased groundball rate but also more bases on balls. Pirates' fans christened him with the nickname "Ground Chuck."[33][34][35]

In the 2015 offseason, a frustrated Morton began experimenting with throwing harder, alongside adjustments to his technique and workouts. [36] In his injury-abbreviated starts with the Phillies, he showcased his newfound velocity. Along with high spin rates, this attracted the attention of Houston's front office, which signed him and encouraged Morton to continue throwing hard four-seam fastballs, as Morton felt his sinker was becoming ineffective. [37] With the Astros, Morton transformed into a strikeout pitcher, finding new effectiveness against left-handed hitters. [38] With Houston, his primary pitches are a four-seam fastball reaching 98-99 MPH and a curveball with considerable vertical and horizontal movement, which Morton considers his best pitch. Following his evolution into a power pitcher and 2017 postseason feats, Houston fans christened Morton with a new nickname, "Charlie Freakin' Morton", or "#cfm" for short. [39] In 2018, his improvements on his curveball was attributed to his low three-quarters position, but slightly above sidearm at release.[40]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Solomon, Jerome (March 24, 2018). "Astros' Charlie Morton cares about the positive impact he has on others". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  2. ^ Berra, Lindsay (October 28, 2017). "Charlie Morton ready for World Series Game 4". MLB.com. Major League Baseball. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  3. ^ Herrmann, Mark (October 28, 2017). "Astros pitcher Morton's dad was All-LI hoops player". Newsday. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  4. ^ Mastracco, Abbey (October 16, 2017). "Lifelong Yankees fan Charlie Morton starts Game 3... Against Yanks". NJ.com. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  5. ^ "Braves add three players to 40-man roster". Atlanta Braves. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  6. ^ "Morton set for Major League debut". Atlanta Braves. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  7. ^ "Rookies Morton, Jones help beat Halos". Atlanta Braves. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  8. ^ "Braves Acquire Outfielder Nate McLouth from Pittsburgh". Atlanta Braves. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  9. ^ Dunlap, Colin (June 14, 2010). "Pirates' Morton getting his head together". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  10. ^ Langosch, Jenifer. "Andrew McCutchen, Joel Hanrahan, Charlie Morton earn 2011 honors". MLB.com. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  11. ^ "Charlie Morton Stats, Fantasy & News". Philadelphia Phillies. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  12. ^ Langosch, Jenifer. "Charlie Morton undergoes successful hip surgery". MLB.com. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  13. ^ "Charlie Morton has elbow surgery". June 14, 2012.
  14. ^ "Pittsburgh Pirates on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  15. ^ "Pittsburgh Pirates on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  16. ^ "Phillies acquire pitcher Charlie Morton from Pirates". USA TODAY. December 12, 2015. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  17. ^ Gelb, Matt (April 24, 2016). "Morton suffers hamstring injury, placed on DL". Philly.com. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  18. ^ Gelb, Matt (April 27, 2016). "Morton out for season with torn hamstring". Philly.com. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  19. ^ McTaggart, Brian (November 16, 2016). "Astros sign free-agent righty Morton to 2-year contract". MLB.com. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  20. ^ "Boxscore: New York vs. Houston, 2017 ALCS Game 3". MLB.com. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  21. ^ "Boxscore: New York vs. Houston, 2017 ALCS Game 7". MLB.com. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  22. ^ McTaggart, Brian; Gurnick, Ken (November 2, 2017). "Houston Astros win 2017 World Series". MLB.com. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  23. ^ Dean, Richard (May 12, 2018). "Morton K's career-high 14 en route to victory: Correa, McCann, Gattis all launch home runs". MLB.com. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  24. ^ Rome, Chandler (July 13, 2018). "Astros pitcher Charlie Morton added to AL All-Star team". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  25. ^ "Charlie Morton Stats | Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  26. ^ "Rays make official signing of Charlie Morton to $30M, 2-year deal". Tampa Bay Times. December 21, 2018. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  27. ^ https://www.wfla.com/sports/charlie-morton-makes-debut-rays-even-series-at-1/1887156479. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ "2019 Major League Baseball Pitching Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. January 1, 1970. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  29. ^ "Player Card: Charlie Morton". Brooks Baseball. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
  30. ^ "Player Card: Charlie Morton". Brooks Baseball. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
  31. ^ "Player Card: Charlie Morton". Brooks Baseball. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
  32. ^ Fox Sports (April 18, 2011). "Rosenthal notebook: Young infielders showing promise for Chicago Cubs". FOX Sports. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  33. ^ Pittsburgh Pirates: Charlie Morton Is the Real Deal in the Rotation Archived December 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ "Cardinals get to Morton in 10–7 win over Pirates". Boston.com. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  35. ^ Shanna Rose. "Pittsburgh Pirates: Charlie Morton roars back". isportsweb. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  36. ^ Kaplan, Jake. "Q&A: Charlie Morton on breaking out late in his career, his..." The Athletic. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  37. ^ Kaplan, Jake. "Long known as a sinkerballer, Charlie Morton now finding..." The Athletic. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  38. ^ "Reading Between The Seams: The Ghost Of Ground Chuck (Part 2 of 6)". The Crawfish Boxes. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  39. ^ Kaplan, Jake. "Q&A: Charlie Morton on breaking out late in his career, his..." The Athletic. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  40. ^ MLB Network (May 6, 2018), Spinning the Curveball with Al Leiter, retrieved May 22, 2019

External linksEdit