Morton's rotation spot not in jeopardy
Pirates management states commitment to right-hander
MILWAUKEE -- After another subpar start from Charlie Morton on Sunday, Pirates management reiterated its commitment to the right-hander and stated its intention to keep him in the club's rotation.
Four starts into the season, Morton sits at 0-4 with a bloated 16.20 ERA. Three of those starts have ended in fewer than four innings, including the latest one on Sunday. In that outing, Morton gave up five runs on five hits and two walks in three innings before being pulled.
Considering the Pirates' collective starting woes and taking into account concerns that Morton's struggles could begin affecting him mentally, how long can the Pirates afford to keep him in the big league rotation?
"There is a concern that at some point in time it becomes counterproductive, but our belief is that we're still at a point in time where Charlie is a good Major League starter," said general manager Neal Huntington. "We still have confidence we can get Charlie turned around and have him win games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's tough not to get out of the fourth inning very often for any starter, but especially for a young starter with his good stuff. We have to get the consistency to play, as it did a year ago."
Manager John Russell said the lack of other starting options in the organization is playing little role in the Pirates' decision to keep giving the ball to Morton every fifth day. Instead, there's a belief that if Morton can be smarter with his pitch selection and avoid the big inning, he can become a much more reliable presence in the rotation.
"He's working extremely hard," Russell said. "We see progress. It's not showing in results as much as you'd like in games. But this is a guy that we want to continue to work with here. I still really believe that Charlie is going to be fine.
"He just needs to settle down. At some point, he'll figure it out to where he can start gaining some confidence. That's the next step -- realizing what he can do."
Morton's next scheduled start will come Friday in Los Angeles.
Jakubauskas with team, in good spirits
MILWAUKEE -- Two days after being hit in the back of the head with a line drive, right-hander Chris Jakubauskas remains both in good spirits and in good health.
Jakubauskas, who suffered both a concussion and head contusion after suffering the shot off Lance Berkman's bat in the Pirates' loss to the Astros, said he continues to deal with periodic grogginess and headaches, though both are less frequent than they were initially. He reported no ill effects after making the flight from Houston to Milwaukee, and he was scheduled to undergo some additional memory tests at Miller Park on Monday.
Jakubauskas' biggest complaint right now stems from his inability to sleep through the night. Because he suffered a concussion, Jakubauskas has to be woken up every few hours to answer certain questions. He'll have to go through the routine for at least one more night.
"The hardest thing right now is not being able to get enough sleep," Jakubauskas said. "I would love to just be able to sleep for eight hours straight."
Jakubauskas, who has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, will remain with the club through the rest of its 10-day road trip.
Ohlendorf to make rehab start on Friday
MILWAUKEE -- With his side sessions continuing to go well, Ross Ohlendorf is scheduled to make the first of two Minor League rehab appearances on Friday. He has been sidelined with a back injury since making his season debut on April 7.
Ohlendorf will throw a bullpen session at Miller Park on Tuesday before heading down to Bradenton, Fla., where he will throw around 50 pitches in Friday's extended spring training game. By having Ohlendorf pitch in an extended spring game, the Pirates will be able to control how many pitches the right-hander throws each inning.
Assuming all goes well there, Ohlendorf would then be in line to make a second rehab start on May 5. That would likely take place with either Double-A Altoona or Class A Bradenton, since Triple-A Indianapolis does not have a scheduled game on that date. Ohlendorf would raise his pitch count to about 65-70 pitches in his second start.
The schedule would have Ohlendorf on track to come off the disabled list on May 10, which marks the first game of a three-game home series against the Reds.
Local headline leaves clubhouse miffed
MILWAUKEE -- Not in Pittsburgh anymore.
So read the headline lacing the top of Monday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sports page. And as should be expected, it found its way onto the bulletin board inside the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park.
The headline was in reference to how quickly things changed for the Brewers over the weekend. After sweeping the Pirates last week and outscoring Pittsburgh 36-1, the Brewers were outscored 25-4 in three losses to the Cubs.
Still, some players in the Pittsburgh clubhouse saw it as a cheap shot toward the team and hoped to use it as a source of motivation while in Milwaukee this week. It's no secret that the Brewers have had the Pirates' number, and not just last week. The Pirates have lost 21 straight here at Miller Park heading into this three-game series.
Asked about the headline, Brewers manager Ken Macha -- a native of Pittsburgh and former Pirates player himself -- showed some sensitivity.
"It reminds me a little bit of what the Penguins went through at one point in time," Macha said of the current state of the Pirates franchise. "And the Penguins and the Pirates have one thing in common. They have a block of fans -- 10,000 or 12,000 or whatever it is -- that are so loyal no matter what.
"Pittsburgh is a good sports town, and because of the loyalty of those fans, you'd like to see them get it turned around and going in the right direction."
Struggling Iwamura dropped in order
MILWAUKEE -- For the first time this season, center fielder Andrew McCutchen returned to the leadoff spot that he grew so familiar with in 2009.
Manager John Russell's lineup shuffle for Monday's game against the Brewers, however, had more to do with moving leadoff hitter Aki Iwamura down than it did with bumping McCutchen up. Iwamura entered the game with just two hits in his past 27 at-bats, a duration that covers the Pirates' six-game losing skid. As a result, Russell dropped him to the seventh spot in the batting order.
This mini slump comes on the heels of a seven-game span in which Iwamura hit .357 and had five multi-hit games.
Iwamura struggled to get hits at the start of the season, but the difference then was that the second baseman was still able to work deep into the count and draw a walk from time to time. That hasn't been the case over the last week.
"He was pressing because we weren't scoring," Russell said. "He got away from his approach a little bit. He was making early-count outs, which was not his memo early. We just need to get him relaxed and back into that mode."
Whether because of the batting order change or not, Iwamura did show some patience in his first at-bat on Monday and was rewarded for it. After working the count to 2-2 against Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, Iwamura laced a single to left.
Once Iwamura is able to get back into a groove at the plate, Russell said he plans to move him back to the leadoff spot.
The Pirates have not named a starter for Thursday's game in Los Angeles and are unlikely to until Wednesday. Brian Burres and Brian Bass remain candidates. If they are needed to pitch in relief during this series in Milwaukee, however, that would remove them as a possibility. ... Thursday's starter will not be right-hander Brad Lincoln, though Lincoln dominated in his most recent Triple-A start. Lincoln allowed one run on five hits in seven innings on Sunday to pick up his second win of the season. He didn't walk a batter, and struck out five. ... Left fielder Lastings Milledge was out of the Pirates' lineup for the second time in four days, as manager John Russell opted to go with the left-handed hitting Ryan Church against a right-handed starter. Milledge has hit just .192 against right-handers this season.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.