Notes: Adjustment works for Morris
Veteran impressed with results after altering delivery
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Five games into their Spring Training schedule, the Pirates have now seen all five of their expected rotation arms pitch after watching Matt Morris take the mound against the Phillies on Monday.
The Pirates have to be encouraged by much of what they've seen thus far.
Taking the reins on a suggestion made to him by pitching coach Jeff Andrews, Morris focused on making sure he stayed standing tall through his delivery during his two innings of work. The objective in doing so, Morris explained, was to deliver the ball with more of a downward plane.
Afterward, he was encouraged by the results, suggesting that he may have found something to consider moving forward.
"Basically, I'm just working on getting the ball down," said Morris, who allowed three hits in two scoreless innings of work. "If you start taller, it's easier to get the ball down."
The suggestion came out of classroom sessions with Morris and Andrews after Andrews had observed that Morris was having some issues keeping the ball down. Andrews' intention behind the idea was to make the middle of Morris' stride slightly longer to ensure that his fingers finished the pitch in a downward motion.
Much has been made about Morris' value as a leader in the clubhouse, maybe so much so that his ability on the mound has taken a backseat since he was traded to Pittsburgh last July. Andrews, however, vowed early in Spring Training not to become complacent where Morris' results were concerned.
"We brought Matt in here to win. We didn't bring him in here to be the father," Andrews said. "All of his experience, everything that he has, is going to be a plus. But we think he's going to be a winning pitcher. It's not that we're bringing him in here and putting him on a rocking chair. This guy's going to be an integral part of this staff."
The pitching coach left Morris alone during his early bullpen sessions, trusting the veteran right-hander to know what work regimen would work best for him. He let Morris decide what pace was most comfortable, what pitches he needed to throw on any given day and what motion felt most fluid.
But with mediocre results in each of the past four seasons, Morris isn't shutting himself out to new suggestions, even minor ones. Based on Monday's results, that attitude may serve him quite well.
"I haven't been at my best the last couple of years, so I'm open to new ideas," said Morris, who went 3-4 with a 6.10 ERA in 11 starts for the Pirates in '07. "I think this is going to help."
Duffy improving: Outfielder Chris Duffy continues to progress through his throwing program as he methodically works to strengthen his left shoulder. Duffy is now throwing at a distance of 105 feet, though he is still doing so at what he estimates to be just 50-percent effort.
"Sometimes my arm will just be tight," said Duffy, who is now just over six months removed from shoulder surgery. "A lot of times, I was throwing one day and [taking] the next day off. Now, I'm throwing three days straight. My arm is just adjusting. It's just a little tightness."
The center fielder is void of any limitations while hitting now, however. He continues to take batting practice and began hitting off live pitchers a week ago.
"B" game wrap-up: The Pirates dropped their Monday "B" game to the Phillies, 1-0, as a home run off Bucs starter Yoslan Herrera proved to be the only dent in the scoreboard on the morning. Herrera was otherwise sharp, tossing three innings and allowing just two hits. Juan Perez, T.J. Beam and Adam Bernero each threw one scoreless inning in relief.
Bixler battling: It's not been the kindest of springs so far for shortstop Brian Bixler, who is trying to prove that he is nearing the point of being ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues.
With two more strikeouts in the "B" game, Bixler is now 2-for-11 with six strikeouts so far this spring. Those at-bats are cumulative of Bixler's appearances in three Grapefruit League games and two "B" games.
Bucs bits: Assuming that there are no unforeseen setbacks, Nate McLouth (right hamstring) will likely be back in the lineup either Tuesday or Wednesday. ... Left-hander Damaso Marte pitched his side session back at Pirate City on Monday as scheduled.
On deck: For the second straight day, the Pirates will hit the road on Tuesday, this time traveling south to Fort Myers, Fla., to face the Red Sox at 1:05 p.m. ET. After pitching two scoreless innings in a spot start last Friday, left-hander Phil Dumatrait will take the mound and pitch three innings in his second start of the spring.
Dumatrait, who will be opposed by Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, will be followed by Bryan Bullingon, Dave Davidson, Mike Thompson and Franquelis Osoria.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.