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Be the change: Morton adding new pitch

Veteran right-hander experimenting with changeup
MLB.com @basebollie

JUPITER, Fla. -- Spring Training, particularly for veteran pitchers like Charlie Morton, is a time to experiment with pitches. Morton, at 34 years old, is looking to add a changeup to his diverse repertoire.

The right-hander had a tough time finding the strike zone with his fastball early in Saturday's 6-6 tie with the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium, his third start of camp. So he turned his focus to what will be -- if it progresses accordingly -- the sixth pitch in his arsenal.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Spring Training, particularly for veteran pitchers like Charlie Morton, is a time to experiment with pitches. Morton, at 34 years old, is looking to add a changeup to his diverse repertoire.

The right-hander had a tough time finding the strike zone with his fastball early in Saturday's 6-6 tie with the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium, his third start of camp. So he turned his focus to what will be -- if it progresses accordingly -- the sixth pitch in his arsenal.

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"I think it'll be a good pitch for me to mix in off my fastball, work off my sinker to righties and lefties," Morton said. "I think it's coming along."

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"He doesn't like using it, because his other pitches are so dominant, so it's a force-feed for him," manager A.J. Hinch added. "It'll be effective, it'll get on some scouting reports and he'll get more comfortable as he uses it more. It's an extra pitch for him. It's something we're trying to develop."

Morton got off to an ominous start when he plunked Marlins leadoff hitter Braxton Lee with his first delivery of the day, a cutter that he says he "yanked real bad."

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"I couldn't believe how far I missed," Morton said.

Morton issued a four-pitch free pass in the second inning to Miami slugger Justin Bour, who scored two batters later on an error by third baseman Alex Bregman. The next pitch hit Chad Wallach; it was a four-seamer that started where Morton wanted it to but tailed off more than he thought.

"I don't like to hit guys, especially in Spring Training," Morton said.

Statcast™ credits Morton with throwing a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, curveball and sinker. He sprinkled in the changeup during the third and fourth innings, which seemed to help him settle down: both frames were scoreless.

Two unearned runs were charged to Morton in the fifth. Bregman committed his second error following a Miguel Rojas single, which led to one run; another crossed the plate on catcher Evan Gattis' errant throw while trying to catch Cameron Maybin stealing second.

Video: HOU@WSH: Morton records six K's in second start

Saturday's outing won't hurt Morton's spring ERA (0.93), but he was not quite as sharp as he hoped. The length of the start was encouraging to Hinch, despite the lack of efficiency.

"He's healthy, he felt good," Hinch said. "His pitch count was in the 70s, so that part was a success."

Morton had just five Spring Training innings under his belt entering Saturday. He nearly reached that mark against Miami.

"Nothing to be alarmed by, but also something to build on for his next outing," Hinch said. "He can hone in and sharpen up a little bit and get ready for the season."

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

Houston Astros, Charlie Morton