Morton 'pleasantly surprised' to pitch into sixth

Duffy progressing; Kolarek has smooth eighth, but Font has rough ninth

March 18th, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Charlie Morton called it a "pleasant surprise" that he was able to pitch into the sixth inning on Monday, in what should be his penultimate start before he's scheduled to pitch against his former team, the Houston Astros, in the second game of the regular season.

The plan was for the right-hander to get into the fifth inning, but because of Morton's efficiency, Rays manager Kevin Cash and pitching coach Kyle Snyder decided to let Morton go back out for the sixth in the game the Rays ultimately lost 4-2 to the Pirates.

"I thought Charlie looked really good," Cash said. "We didn't anticipate the sixth up, but he was so efficient that it kind of worked in our favor. Really good day as far as that's concerned."

Morton got off to a strong start, retiring the first nine Pirates he faced. He flashed 95 mph with his fastball, while also throwing his breaking balls throughout the day. He finished with four strikeouts. He did, however, run into trouble in the sixth as he walked Jacob Stallings to start the frame, followed by an opposite field single by Alfredo Reyes, before Morton exited.

Morton threw 75 pitches, and was charged with two earned runs, his first of the spring, raising his ERA to 2.08 for his three Grapefruit League appearances.

"I feel good," Morton said. "I think my stuff is pretty good right now."

Because he got into the sixth, Cash said that the team likely will scale Morton back in his final spring start, which is scheduled to be Saturday in Lakeland, Fla., against the Tigers.

"I'm not sure what we're going to do because I was able to get six ups today," Morton said. "I think Kyle and I will talk about it and see what we want to get done next time."

Duffy could be nearing return

Matt Duffy took the next step in his recovery process, running at 90 percent on Monday. The third baseman has been limited to just one game this spring due to a left hamstring injury. There’s a chance that Duffy will miss Opening Day, but Cash and Duffy remain optimistic that they’ll be able to avoid that. Monday was another step in the right direction.

"Duffy had a really good day," Cash said. "He felt good. I'll put a soft landing on [it that] he'll play after [Wednesday's] off-day. Let's just see how we go the next couple of days."

Duffy will run the bases again Tuesday and will undergo some treatment on Wednesday. Those two days will determine if he will be ready for game action on Thursday.

Game notes

Wilmer Font's inconsistent spring continues. The right-hander gave up a run and two hits in the ninth inning, bringing his ERA to 12.00. The 28-year old has been disappointed with his fastball command this spring, but is expected to make the Opening Day roster after his strong showing for the Rays last season before he was sidelined with a right lat injury.

Adam Kolarek, who is competing for the final spot in the bullpen, pitched a clean eighth on Monday. Kolarek is competing with Emilio Pagan, Hunter Wood and a couple of others for the final open spot in the Rays' bullpen.

Brandon Lowe went 1-for-3 on Monday, picking up his team-leading 14th RBI of the spring with a double in the sixth off Kyle Crick.

Quote of the day

"When people ask me if I see this team being successful this year, it's a hard yes. Because I think the talent is there and the personalities, the character in a clubhouse is there." -- Morton, talking about the 2019 Rays.

Up next

Tyler Glasnow, who will be the Rays' No. 3 starter this season, takes the mound Tuesday as the team hits the road to Tampa, Fla., to play the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Jalen Beeks and Pagan are also scheduled to pitch against New York.