BALTIMORE -- Astros pitcher Charlie Morton admitted his final start of the regular season Sunday against the Orioles will be a big one for him mentally and physically in terms of gauging his preparedness and health for the playoffs.Morton, speaking Saturday for the first time since he left his Sept.
BALTIMORE -- Astros pitcher Charlie Morton admitted his final start of the regular season Sunday against the Orioles will be a big one for him mentally and physically in terms of gauging his preparedness and health for the playoffs.
Morton, speaking Saturday for the first time since he left his Sept. 23 start after one inning because of a sore right shoulder, said his shoulder felt "tight," but said tests have shown there is no structural damage. Morton said several doctors have examined him and said his arm looks good for his age (34).
"I think it's just some muscle imbalance going on, some muscle tightness causing some strange symptoms," he said. "It's just frustrating. I didn't feel great. I felt like it was hard to let the ball go, and I think some of that is probably where we are in the season and where I've been for the past couple of years coming off a season [in 2016] where I didn't pitch a whole lot. This is most I've ever thrown back-to-back years, and I'm just trying to manage it going into the playoffs."
The Astros have been very careful with Morton's workload since he came off the disabled list on Sept. 8 (shoulder discomfort), and he's pitched on at least one week of rest in each of three starts since. He's thrown 164 innings this season, which is his most in the regular season since throwing 171 2/3 innings in 2011 with the Pirates.
In his previous start against the Angels in Houston, he threw 24 pitches in the first inning, allowing one run and striking out two, and was pulled from the game because his velocity was down. He left the team to be with his wife for the birth of their child and returned on Saturday.
Morton (15-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 29 starts) played catch on Saturday and was pleased. He will throw only a few innings in Sunday's regular-season finale.
"Part of the difficulty is the mental side of it," he said. "Sometimes you just don't feel right. Sometimes you feel something's wrong when there really isn't anything that's that bad, and you have to kind of accept that. That's part it and making some adjustments. I'm trying to loosen some things up and get in a better spot overall and try to get ready to pitch in October."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.