Charlie Morton is “ahead of schedule” after hip surgery

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Charlie Morton was a nice surprise for the Pirates last season, posting a 3.93 ERA in 172 innings after coming into the year with a 5.98 career mark, but he underwent hip surgery in October and is not expected to be ready for Opening Day.

However, manager Clint Hurdle said yesterday that Morton is “ahead of schedule” in his recovery, telling Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:

He’s knocked down every challenge we’ve put in front of him. There’s been no hesitation, no setback. The velocity and arm strength are showing signs of a guy who’s in a good place.

Good news, although because Morton was initially given a 4-6 month recovery timetable “ahead of schedule” could still mean missing most of April. He’s thrown five bullpen sessions so far and is happy with how his arm feels, so it sounds like the key will avoiding a setback.

Yankees acquire A.J. Cole from the Nats

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The New York Yankees have acquired reliever A.J. Cole from the Washington Nationals for cash considerations.

Cole was supposed to be the Nats’ fifth starter this year but that didn’t work out too well. He pitched in four games for the Nats, starting two, to the tune of a 13.06 ERA, having given up six home runs in 10.1 innings. That’s . . . something.

Don’t get too used to Cole on the New York roster, as this seems like one of those “give us an arm” for a couple of days deals, after which Cole will be DFA’d and will either accept an assignment to Scranton or be cut loose. Such is life at the fringes for a guy who is out of minor league options.