WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- For the first time since he closed out Game 7 of the World Series with four innings, veteran right-hander Charlie Morton returned to the mound and threw two scoreless innings in the Astros' 10-5 win Thursday over the Red Sox in his first Grapefruit League
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- For the first time since he closed out Game 7 of the World Series with four innings, veteran right-hander Charlie Morton returned to the mound and threw two scoreless innings in the Astros' 10-5 win Thursday over the Red Sox in his first Grapefruit League start of 2018.
Morton, whose fastball touched 98 mph, had the best season of his career last year at age 33, going 14-7 with a 3.62 ERA in 25 starts after making only four starts in 2016 because of a hamstring injury. He allowed two runs, five hits and one walk while striking out 11 in 10 1/3 innings over two appearances in the World Series.
"I was just trying to get it going, throw strikes and get through two innings efficiently and not hit anybody," Morton said. "It was the first time, and I had the adrenaline going a little bit. I'm focusing on my delivery and timing and make sure I don't do anything herky-jerky and stay in my delivery, really, and give them something to swing at. No-free-passes kind of thing."
Morton threw 24 pitches (17 strikes), the majority of which were fastballs.
"I think I threw one curveball that I didn't intend on throwing, but I threw it," Morton said. "I think I threw a couple of [changeups]. My stuff is OK, but I've got to work on the location, which will come."
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It's early, but veteran left-hander Tony Sipp has two spotless outings under his belt in Grapefruit League play, including a 1-2-3 inning Thursday against Boston. Sipp, who was left off the postseason roster last year, is in the final year of a three-year deal and battling for a spot in the club out of the bullpen.
Sipp was encouraged by how he ended last season, and he said he's continued to work on those things this spring. At this point, he wants to throw quality strikes and not worry about results, though they have been good.
"I came into camp feeling good, and obviously, just building off what I had at the end of last year," Sipp said.
Sipp's split-finger fastball remains his key, and he said he's been happy with that pitch and his slider. The Astros brought in Player Page for Buddy Boshers to compete with Sipp and Reymin Guduan for a left-handed relief spot, but nothing has changed for Sipp.
"I can only worry about what I can control," Sipp said. "I welcome any type of competition, because at the end of the day, I'm pretty sure we want the best team we can put out there, the best 25-man [roster] we can put out there.
"You're aware there are other lefties, but this wouldn't be the first time there was another lefty in the bullpen. I've shared the bullpen plenty of times with two or three lefties. At the end of the day, they're going to go with their best weapons, and my focus is to be the best me I can be out there."
First baseman Yuli Gurriel, who underwent surgery Wednesday in Houston to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand, is expected back in camp early next week. Hinch has texted with Gurriel post-surgery, and he reported it was Gurriel's first surgery.
"I think he'll pitch in the big leagues this year." -- Hinch, on right-hander Rogelio Armenteros, the Astros' No. 12 prospect according to MLB Pipeline
Gerrit Cole will make his second start of the spring when the Astros face the split-squad Mets at 5:05 p.m. CT Friday on MLB.TV at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Cole threw two scoreless, hitless innings in his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday in Jupiter, Fla., against the Cardinals.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.