Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez scheduled to throw this week

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Charlie Morton (left) and Wandy Rodriguez are moving closer to returning to the Pirates rotation.
Charlie Morton (left) and Wandy Rodriguez are moving closer to returning to the Pirates rotation. (USATSI)

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The Pirates got some good pitching news on Monday as they look to get back into the NL Central race. Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports right-hander Charlie Morton is scheduled to throw a side session on Tuesday while left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will throw a simulated game on Thursday.

Lowest ERA since 1920*
Player, TeamYearsERA
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers2008-132.63
Whitey Ford, Yankees1950, 1953-672.75
Sandy Koufax, Dodgers1955-662.76
Spud Chandler, Yankees1937-472.84
Jim Palmer, Orioles1965-67, 1969-842.86

Morton, 29, left Sunday's game against the Cardinals in the second inning with left foot discomfort. He first felt it while covering home plate on a wild pitch and was immediately removed from the game. The team sent him back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation. Since he's scheduled to throw on Tuesday, Morton appears to have avoided a serious injury.

In 16 starts this year, Morton has gone 7-4 with a 3.44 ERA (103 ERA+) and an outstanding 63.4-percent ground ball rate in 91 2/3 innings. He is coming back from Tommy John surgery that limited him to just nine starts in 2011 following his breakout 2010 season.

Rodriguez, 34, has been out since early June with pain and inflammation in his left forearm and elbow. He will throw 65-70 pitches on Thursday and could still return to the team this year. Wandy made one minor league rehab start in late June before being shut down with more discomfort.

In 12 starts before the injury, Rodriguez went 6-4 with a 3.59 ERA (99 ERA+) and a 3.83 K/BB ratio. He missed three weeks with an elbow strain last season but has otherwise stayed clear of arm problems in his nine MLB seasons. The Pirates acquired Rodriguez from the Astros at last year's trade deadline.

The Pirates come into Monday tied for second place in the NL Central with the Reds, 1.5 games back of the Cardinals. They are percentage points ahead of the Cincinnati and were swept in St. Louis over the weekend. Despite the recent slide, the Buccos have a comfortable eight-game cushion on a playoff spot with less than three weeks to play.

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