Charlie Morton made just four starts before suffering a left hamstring tear that required season-ending surgery. Before he went down, there were some positive signs in his profile that make him an interesting endgame speculation this season. He was averaging 94.3 mph with his fastball, more than two miles per hour faster than he averaged in 2015 and easily the best velocity of his career. His K/9 increased along with his velocity and his swinging strike rate was at 13 percent after averaging eight percent in his prior seasons. He was also maintaining the excellent GB/FB ratio that he had displayed throughout most of his career. Morton quickly signed with the Astros soon after free agency began and is expected to be ready for the start of the 2017 season, if not spring action. He's sure to be overlooked in most leagues, thanks to the shift to the American League and his limited amount of work last season.
Morton's fastball topped out at 97 mph during Saturday's game against the Nationals, Philip Fishman of the Houston Chronicle reports. The right-hander got up to 63 pitches (42 strikes) in his fourth spring start, allowing two unearned runs on three hits and one walk while striking out seven over four innings. Morton is unfazed by the velocity increase of his fastball, which in previous years sat in the 92 mph range. "It's nice to throw hard, but at the end of the day, it's all about getting outs," he said. And getting outs is what's he's been doing this spring. He's allowed seven hits and four walks over 13 innings and sports a 1.38 ERA with 13 strikeouts. Morton has solidified his hold on the No. 4 spot in the rotation. And if he continues to maintain increased velocity with movement, we could see an uptick in whiffs for a pitcher who's averaged 6.3 K/9 for his career.
Morton tossed three scoreless innings Wednesday, striking out four and walking one without allowing a hit to the Mets, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. Morton is off to an impressive start this spring, tossing five scoreless innings through two starts. His fastball once again flashed elevated velocity, sitting between 94 and 97 mph. He's averaged between 91 and 93 mph the last few years, but experienced an uptick in 2016 before his season ended early due to a hamstring injury. He acknowledged the weapon that added velocity can have, but Morton was more pleased with the location of his curveball and movement of his sinker.
Morton allowed one hit and one walk while striking out one over two scoreless innings in Friday's game against the Mets. A nice start for Morton, who missed most of last season after tearing a hamstring in April. The 33-year-old right-hander's fastball was clocked between 94 and 96 mph, continuing a trend of increased velocity we noticed last season before his injury. He's part of a handful of pitchers looking to claim one of the final two spots in the rotation, but Morton's spot should be safe if he remains healthy.
Morton (hamstring) will make his spring debut Friday against the Mets, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports. The right-hander missed all of 2016 due to a torn hamstring that required surgery, but he seems to be back to form in time to make a good number of spring starts. As long as he experiences no setbacks, Morton is expected to slot in as the Astros' fourth starter, but he could see competition from Joe Musgrove and Mike Fiers for starting spots as well.
Morton (hamstring) is "softly" in the Astros' starting rotation for 2017, according to manager A.J. Hinch, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Morton signed a two-year, $14 million contract with the Astros in November after a torn hamstring limited his 2016 season to four starts. The 33-year-old has been injury-prone in recent years, but it looks like he will get the chance to start once again. While Morton appears poised to break camp as the team's fifth starter, 24-year-old Joe Musgrove has more potential and may be a more intriguing option, as he finished 2016 with a 4.06 ERA over 11 games (10 starts) in Houston. Musgrove may begin the season in Triple-A, but he figures to make his way back to the majors at some point in 2017.