Father Time no match for Morton as he blanks White Sox

April 2nd, 2024

CHICAGO -- When took the mound in the Braves’ series opener against the White Sox on Monday afternoon, he became the second-oldest player to throw a pitch this season. At 40 years old, though, Morton continues to show that his age won’t slow him down.

The right-hander tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings to lift Atlanta over the White Sox for a 9-0 victory in eight innings at Guaranteed Rate Field. That performance gave Morton his 42nd career win in a Braves uniform -- the most of any team he has played for in his career.

"It’s a tough game to play,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I got a lot of respect for guys who go out, and they do it for an extended period, have long careers, and have the success that Charlie’s had. It’s something pretty special.”

Morton’s season debut was smooth sailing for the most part, except for a rough first inning when he loaded the bases. However, the veteran got out of it by striking out Paul DeJong. After that, he retired 13 of the next 17 batters, including the last 11 hitters he faced, before he departed with two outs in the sixth.

Morton left the game with the team leading 6-0, which was enough to earn his 131st career win. All nine hitters contributed to that offensive effort, as every starter tallied a hit. Austin Riley then extended the lead in the eighth inning after he belted a three-run home run en route to a four-RBI game.

“Every time he pitches, it's impressive to me, just the whole body of work,” Snitker said. “We said it all last year. We were talking about how the ball is still coming out of his hand at his age and the innings. It’s just a testament to Charlie's dedication to the game, taking care of himself, and the work ethic. He’s pretty good.”

The veteran’s start to the 2024 campaign couldn’t have gone much better. He struck out All-Star outfielder Luis Robert Jr. three times and leaned on the combination of his fastball and curveball to throw Chicago’s hitters off balance all afternoon. In many ways, this outing was reminiscent of the type of pitcher Morton has always been in the big leagues.

He gave up just three hits and two walks to go with six strikeouts across a dominant performance. Morton also induced 12 whiffs while battling the cold conditions in Chicago.

"I thought my four-seamer was playing up, and the changeup was good,” Morton said. “[Travis d’Arnaud] called a great game. [He] mixed it up real well, and that was fun because we used all the tools today. Anytime you can do that, it's pretty fun.”

Morton’s strong start on Monday is another reminder that the veteran can still pitch at a high level. He is the third-oldest player in the majors, behind only Justin Verlander (41) and fellow Braves pitcher Jesse Chavez (40). His teammates, though, aren’t surprised one bit by his recent outing, even at his age.

“The old saying ‘aging like fine wine’ is about as true as it comes,” Riley said. “He’s just the ultimate professional. I love playing behind him. I love being his teammate. He’s great.”

Morton has made his way around the league over his career, but he has now settled in as a reliable rotation arm for the Braves. In his last three full seasons in Atlanta, the veteran has a 3.77 combined ERA with 604 strikeouts.

The Braves don’t expect that consistency to change in 2024, as he remains a solid option behind Spencer Strider, Max Fried, and Chris Sale. Morton is certainly off to a great start in his age-40 season, and he’s hoping that continues in Year 17.

“I can only think of a couple of springs where I left Florida, and I was like ‘I'm good to go,’” Morton said. “I think in 2018 with the Astros, I felt like that was probably the best that I had felt. But usually, I'm not. I would say this spring, I know I checked all the boxes. So, we'll see. I think once it gets a little warmer weather, get the arm going a little bit more, I'll see where I'm truly at.”