Last month Charlie Morton was said to be “ahead of schedule” in his recovery from October hip surgery, but the Pirates right-hander will begin the season on the disabled list.
However, it’s not necessarily a setback, as the Pirates won’t need a fifth starter until April 14 and for now at least the plan is for Morton to come off the DL and pitch that game.
Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports that in the meantime Morton will pitch a simulated game next week and then start a Triple-A game on April 9.
Morton was a pleasant surprise for the Pirates last season, throwing 172 innings with a 3.83 ERA thanks to allowing just six homers in 769 plate appearances. He had the third-highest ground-ball rate in baseball behind Jake Westbrook and Derek Lowe.
The Mariners signed free agent left-hander Wade LeBlanc to a one-year deal, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reported Saturday. LeBlanc previously signed a minor league agreement with the Yankees, but later requested his release following the team’s Grapefruit League outing on Friday. The Mariners have yet to confirm the deal or disclose its terms.
This is LeBlanc’s second stint with the Mariners in two years. He was initially acquired by Seattle in the summer of 2016 after the Blue Jays traded him for cash considerations, and produced a 4.50 ERA, 1.6 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 in 50 innings before getting designated for assignment in August. The 33-year-old southpaw was last seen in the majors with the Pirates, with whom he generated another 4.50 ERA, 2,3 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 68 innings in 2017. He entered free agency after the club declined his $1.25 million option for 2018.
The signing comes at a fortuitous moment for the Mariners, who were pressed to find additional bullpen depth after right-handed reliever David Phelps tore his ulnar collateral ligament last week. As with most injuries of that kind, Phelps is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2018 season. LeBlanc made a full transition to the bullpen in 2017 and boasts the kind of reverse platoon splits (.216/.270/.389 vs. righties and .292/.333/.500 vs. lefties in 2017) that will make him an effective replacement for the right-handed Phelps.