Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates

Pirates to skip struggling Charlie Morton in starting rotation

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Turns out Charlie Morton can’t succeed on imitation alone.

Morton enjoyed some early season success after overhauling his delivery to mimic Roy Halladay, but has seen his ERA jump from 2.52 to 3.77 over his last three starts by allowing 17 runs (15 earned) in just 11 innings.

Some regression was probably in store for Morton anyway, as he has an underwhelming 50/35 K/BB ratio over 86 innings, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that he believes the 27-year-old right-hander is dealing with fatigue. The Pirates have two days off in the next week, so they will use it as an opportunity to skip him in he starting rotation.

“I’ve had some experience with a young staff developing at the Major League level,” Hurdle said. “Charlie has pitched a very large volume of innings for his history. I believe it’s more just road wear than anything else. You find ways to try and find preventative maintenance of injury. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

According to Brooks Baseball, Morton averaged just over 90 mph on his fastball during last night’s start against the Orioles, down a bit from his season average of 92 mph. Assuming he’s not dealing with an injury, fatigue could certainly be a factor.

Morton has already thrown 86 innings this season, putting him on pace to top his previous career-high of 168 2/3 innings back in 2009, which included 97 innings with the Pirates and 71 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level. Morton has never thrown more than 97 innings in a season on the major league level.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.