A little more than five months after suffering a fractured fibula in Game 1 of the World Series, Charlie Morton returned to the mound for the Atlanta Braves and showed no ill-effects from the injury. Morton retired the first 12 hitters he faced Friday night and allowed just two hits and two runs over 5 1/3 innings while throwing 78 pitches. Then again, this is the sort of outing that we have all come to expect from Morton who just keeps rolling on despite turning 38-years old this past offseason.
“I thought it was really good,” Brian Snitker said of Morton’s outing after the game. “We had kind of mapped out 75-80 pitches for him, which is kind of his next step up. It was really good, it’s kind of what I’ve grown to expect that a Charlie.”
“I honestly didn’t even think about the leg,” Morton said. “At some point you just got to move on. Honestly, I just think I’ve rehabed enough injuries and had enough surgeries in the offseason that just made my offseason, just a rehab.”
The Braves gave Morton a one-year, $20 million extension last September and the deal also includes a $20 million option for 2023. He has formed a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation along with Max Fried but in many ways, his value goes well beyond his stat line as he is an important example and mentor to Atlanta’s young pitchers.
“I think that the biggest part from it is all of the young guys in our staff get to watch him do this,” said Travis d’Arnaud who had two hits and drove in three runs in Friday’s win. “They all get to learn from someone who puts in so much work and so much effort in his craft and tries to be such a perfectionist with how he prepares I think it benefits not only him but the whole organization so much.”
The Braves originally drafted Morton in the third round of the 2002 MLB Draft. He made his major league debut in 2008 but was later dealt to the Pirates in a trade for outfielder Nate McLouth. Injuries defined the early part of his career, but his career changed for the better when he signed with the Astros as a 33-year old in 2017. Since then, Morton has been one of the best pitchers in the game logging a 3.25 FIP and a 128 ERA+ in 732 innings.
“I don’t know that anybody can keep going at that level for as long as he has if you’re not,” Snitker said on Morton’s dedication. “You look at all those guys like that, they’re different guys. You’ve got to admire their dedication to their craft and what they do and the consistency and the work ethic to allow themselves to be as competitive as they are as they are after logging all the innings that they have.”
While there has been much angst about the declining role of starting pitchers, Morton credits the newer approach for his longevity.
“I’ve kind of benefited from the way that managers have been using starting pitching recently,” Morton said. “I was with the Astros and I was with the Rays and I think even here, you go five or six innings, and just leave it all on the field. It’s good enough. I think I’ve benefited from that, because it’s not like I’m being asked to go out there and throw 120-130 pitches every time I pitch.”
The Braves will receive their World Series rings in a ceremony prior to Saturday’s game. Brian Snitker, who has spent most of his life in and around the game, was asked for his thoughts on how it is going to feel.
“It’s going to be very special. It’s something that you dream about that not everybody gets the chance to experience,” Snitker said. “So I’m going to cherish every second of the whole thing because you’re never guaranteed for this to happen again. So it’s gonna be a very special evening.”