Charlie Morton didn’t view his return to the majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery as a make or break proposition.
“I didn’t look to this start to validate that I’m back,”’ Morton said. “It’s part of the process, a long process.”
One that’s not nearly complete after the Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander gave up four runs in five innings of a 10-0 loss to San Francisco on Thursday night. Morton surrendered seven hits, walked one and struck out five in his first start since May 29, 2012.
“I wish it had gone better but I think I can take quite a few positives,” Morton said.
Including the knowledge he’ll get a few more chances to get settled in. Injuries to starters A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeanmar Gomez and James McDonald have left the surprising Pirates with little wiggle room, thrusting Morton back into the rotation for a least the next couple weeks.
Manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t see that as a major problem after watching Morton reach 96 mph on the radar gun — a tick up over his pre-surgery velocity — and mix in a curveball that kept the Giants off-balance for stretches.
“There’s room for improvement but for being out a year, first time out on a major league mound, there’s some things we can definitely work with,” Hurdle said.
And there are certainly things to work on. Morton dealt with some jitters early on, hit three batters and seemed to tire near the end of his 86-pitch night. Then again, after undergoing career-altering surgery 364 days before, there are worse problems to have.
Even better, Morton’s next start won’t come against San Francisco’s Matt Cain.
A year to the day after tossing the 22nd perfect game in major league history, Cain (5-3) shut down the Pirates. He allowed two hits, walked three and struck out two, surrendering only a single to Garrett Jones in the fifth and a double to Garrett Jones in the seventh.
“We got to see the real good Matt Cain tonight,” Hurdle said.
Hunter Pence hit his 11th homer of the season, while Buster Posey, Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias had three hits apiece for San Francisco, which handed Pittsburgh its worst loss of the year.
The Giants didn’t knock Morton around so much as chip away. San Francisco touched Morton for a run in each of the first two innings then added two more in the fifth before breaking things open with five runs in the sixth against reliever Mike Zagurski.
The romp was a welcome change for the defending World Series champions, who have struggled on the road.