ST. LOUIS -- Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell has shown patience while allowing Charlie Morton to get adjusted to the challenge of pitching in the Major Leagues. But now that the young right-hander has been in the Majors for two months, it appears time for some of his instruction to come via tough love.

"There comes a time when you keep getting knocked down to the mat that you have to start fighting back," McDowell said.

Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing close to 200 pounds, Morton has a frame that makes scouts salivate. With his fastball and offspeed pitches, he's also shown he has the stuff to find success at the big league level.

But with the inconsistencies he's shown during the first 13 starts of his career, Morton simply has been consistently maddening. During his first two starts this month, he surrendered two earned runs in 14 innings, and both of those runs came in the seventh inning of his Aug. 2 start against the Brewers.

In the three starts that followed, Morton has posted a 10.24 ERA and made two exits before completing three innings. One of the lowest points of his young career came against the Cardinals on Friday night, when he allowed 10 of the 14 batters he faced to reach base safely.

Morton actually was fortunate to only be charged with four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. He issued five walks and threw just 25 of his 57 pitches for strikes. It's safe to say that over the next few days McDowell's focus will be on refining his young hurler's mechanics.

"Every start, whether good, bad or indifferent, we have to get better," McDowell said. "When you aren't getting out of the second inning, there's a need to make changes."

Morton obviously isn't the first rookie pitcher who has been frustratingly inconsistent. In fact, his statistics through the first 13 starts of his career aren't much different than those Tom Glavine (2-7, 5.04 ERA) and John Smoltz (3-7, 5.00 ERA) produced at the same stage of their careers.

Somewhere along the way, Glavine and Smoltz were able to make the necessary adjustments.

While providing some mechanical instruction, McDowell also is trying to get Morton, who has admitted self-confidence problems, to understand he has to start fighting to prove he belongs in the Majors.

"We don't have a choice to sink or swim," McDowell said. "We take the approach that we've got to swim. Failure isn't a choice."