Q. How special is it to be in this position now, Game 3 ALCS and you're getting to start?
CHARLIE MORTON:It will be the biggest game of my career, in a place that I grew up coming as a kid to the old Yankee Stadium. So it'll be special in that way and to go out there with this group of guys.
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Q. What did you think of what Dallas and Justin did to get this started for the Astros? I don't know if "inspired" by that is the proper term, but can you draw anything from what they've done?
CHARLIE MORTON:Yeah, in reference to baseball inspiration and watching that in person, it was incredible to see Dallas go out and do what he did. And Justin yesterday, that was crazy. Yeah, it was one of those games where you're just kind of in awe. As the game went on, it's not getting any easier on Justin. The circumstances aren't making his job any easier. But I said this yesterday to a couple of people, he just got better. It was just incredible, the workload, the pitch count, the times that they saw him through the order. For him to just go out and get better was incredible.
Q. Can you expand a little bit about your experiences going to the old Yankee Stadium. Who did you like? Who were your favorite players?
CHARLIE MORTON:Well, I grew up a Yankee fan, as a guy who grew up in the tri-state area, listening to sports radio, 660. And I remember going to Legends Field in Tampa, my parents took us down there. Went to Wide World of Sports to see the Braves, Spring Training. I always looked up to the pitchers with the Braves, and as somewhat of a local guy, the Yankees. So whenever I got a chance to come in the city, just to come in the city is special, and then to go see a ballgame, that was awesome for me, because I was a huge baseball fan. I never got a chance to play there. But to be here and on this stage is incredible for me, it's special.
Q. Do you have a favorite Yankee?
CHARLIE MORTON:I think Derek Jeter was my favorite. I loved a lot of the pitchers. I remember going when they signed Roger Clemens. I remember seeing his bullpen when he showed up at Spring Training down there. Andy Pettitte, David Cone, and so many guys. I remember when I was little I remember really wanting a Don Mattingly rookie card, and I never got it (laughter) I was a big fan of the game. I think the last time that I came or I went to the old Yankee Stadium I saw the Braves play. And I remember Chipper Jones hitting a home run off of I think it was Ramiro Mendoza, and that was my last memory of it.
Q. After you signed with the Astros or as you're making your decision, did you envision the team getting this far? Did you envision pitching in the Championship Series or the World Series?
CHARLIE MORTON:No, I think I've always struggled to have lofty goals and expectations for myself. And getting to this point personally on this team, I mean, when I signed, this team is great. This team is built to not get to October, but deep in October. But personally I'm not envisioning myself -- what I'm doing is I'm day-to-day I'm thinking what can I do to help this team, am I taking care of the offseason, putting in the work and getting myself in the best position to win. So those kinds of things, to me those are more like a dream. And it's becoming a reality, because here we are. But, no, to be honest with you, not for me personally. I really just wanted to come off the season, I came off of last year, I had surgery in April and missed the rest of the year. I was just trying to be a contributor. And just help the team win.
Q. Your numbers against left-handed hitters this year are better than in the past. What did you change this year in that regard?
CHARLIE MORTON:Not only are they better, I think they're really, really good, in terms of the League in regular pitching. And I don't -- really, I think the biggest change for me was Bob McClure and Rick Kranitz sat me down last year in Citi Field, they sat me down in the video room, and showed me my average against curveball. They said, You need to throw this pitch more, not just 5, 6, 7 percent more, but 15 percent more and more, just keeping throwing it. And that's when I got here that's what Strommy really hammered home with me. It was the first few days of Spring Training, Throw your curveball more. I've really limited by use of my sinker against lefties, I've thrown a lot more four-seamers, way more curveballs, I've incorporated a cutter. So I don't know what my numbers are in terms of each individual pitch against lefties, but I know that I don't feel like I'm backed into a corner when before I did. I felt like if a lefty stepped in the box, I had to be that much better. I would get a copy of the lineup before a game and I would see seven or eight lefties stacked against me. And that was -- it just made the idea of going out there and trying to pitch deep into a game even more difficult to envision because I was a sinker guy, throwing 60, 70 percent sinkers, and they were hitting my sinker. So the game plan has changed, too. The idea that I'm going to make these guys put the ball in play, and try to induce soft contact, that's out the window. Lefties, I'm not trying to do that, I'm not trying to let them hit the ball. At least I'm not trying to encourage them to hit the ball. Where before I was, the assumption being you have a good sinker, you can get the ball on the ground, that wasn't the case. Lots of four seams, curveballs and cutters.
Q. What's it been like to watch these past two games and the way you guys have sort of done a clinic on defense and base running, all the little things you need to do to win 2-1 games?
CHARLIE MORTON:For me it's more emotional than objective. I'm watching these games and when it got to the 6th, 7th inning yesterday, I think for a while the guys in there, as far as emotions go in a baseball stadium, for a player, it was incredible. So it's more of a rush than anything. Like I was saying, we watched Justin go out and do what he did yesterday, just put it all on the line and no fear. The situation was such a tight -- it was a tight game. It could go either way. And then for him to -- I say "battle," but it was just a persistent attack. And for him to do that for as long as he did it and the guys making plays behind him. Reddick's play yesterday, the catch he made in right, but even more the quick pick up of that ball in right, fired it in, just that turn, Carlos. I want to say it's surprising. It's standing out. But it really doesn't. These guys are doing that daily. They're doing those things daily. So this is a great team. I'm humbled to be a part of it.
Q. Being relatively healthy this year, how much even mentally did that help you? And secondly, according to Wikipedia your family is part of the Morton's Steakhouse. Is that true?
CHARLIE MORTON:No (laughter). No, I don't blame you for that. I'm not going to say that (laughter). No, no, I wore a brisket shirt here today (laughter). I feel like I might know who the culprit is, but I don't want to say so. There's a former Pirate that loved to get on Wikipedia, a former right-handed relief pitcher who threw a lot of sinkers, and he's really tall. I'm not saying that's him, either, because I don't have the facts. But, yeah, well, I started to run into health problems early on in my Major League career. I didn't really get hurt a lot in the Minor Leagues, I was really fortunate in that regard, but I wasn't a very good pitcher. When I finally got to the Big Leagues the physical part of it took its toll and I had a hip surgery at the end of 2011. I had T.J. in 2012. I had another hip at the end of 2014, my right hip. And then I had the hamstring. Last year I had injuries that kept me off the field and not necessarily put me on an operating table. But this year there have been nagging things that I feared were worse than they were because of the past experiences. You just assume sometimes the worst because the past has encouraged you to be that it might be something worse. But the ball stayed true coming out of my hand. My arm speed has stayed consistent. My rotations have been good. And my body feels good. And I attribute a lot of that to the work that our workout group did last offseason, this past offseason, in Bradenton, Florida, the AAA strength coach for the Brewers, he runs our group that's down there. And that was the first time, after the 2015 season, that's the first time I worked out there. And my body just feels better. I just feel stronger. My mechanics feel better. I feel more on time. I have a higher amount of torque. I can let the ball go and it comes out clean. And I look up and I play hard all game. It's a weird feeling because I'm not used to that. But, health, yeah, no doubt about it.
Q. Pitching in a ballpark like this, do you have to be cognizant of the right field porch?
CHARLIE MORTON:Well, you have that problem in Houston. You have that problem in a lot of places. I pitched quite a few games in Great American ballpark. And I always felt that that could play to the advantage of somebody that gets a lot of ground balls, the outfielders have less ground to cover. The problem, though, is this year I've been giving up more fly balls. My sinker really hasn't been as ground ball heavy as it has been. So you can't necessarily pitch that way with a fear of the ball going out to a certain part of the park. For sure in some ways, if you're facing a hitter in certain situations, that could definitely hurt you with the long ball. I don't see a reason why that wouldn't apply into the way that you throw to them. But at the same time when you're out there you have to pitch to your strengths, you have to attack the hitters. So, yeah, I guess I would say it might be present in the back of my mind, but I don't think it would overly dictate the way that I throw.
Q. Getting back on growing up and the Yankees, two-part thing. Do you recall getting any autographs from some Yankee players? And two, what is it like for your family to be pitching here, it's not the same place, but the same city, same team, what's it like for your family?
CHARLIE MORTON:My strongest memories is a day we went to the stadium in Tampa during Spring Training, and it was raining. There was nobody out in the field except for one guy, who was running -- there's a field on the first base side of the stadium, outside the stadium. And he was walking into the stadium. And there's a walkway that goes from leftfield corner underneath the bridge into the stadium and it was Joe Girardi. And we ran out there and it was raining, and I'm assuming he was trying to get back in. And I remember him signing for my sister and I. And then the other was there's a Bahama Breeze that's up -- I can't remember exactly where it is, somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, and we're standing there waiting for a table, my family was there. And Derek Jeter walks in. And my sister was a huge Derek Jeter fan. So she got excited. My parents said, It's Derek Jeter. So she walked up to him and said, Hey, can I have a picture with you? And he said, Only if you smile, or something, just being a good dude. And those are two of the more vivid memories I have.
Q. What's it like for your family to play here against these guys?
CHARLIE MORTON:I can't speak for them exactly. But I know that the Yankees were the team that we followed growing up. My dad grew up in Syosset, Long Island, and we grew up in Trumbull and Redding, Connecticut, which is an hour, hour 30, depending on traffic. And this was our team. This was the team that we pulled for. I rooted for the Mets because they struggled. And I followed the Red Sox because we were a New England family. But being so close to here, it was the Yankees, so this is special.