Morton dominates Durham

Charlie Morton has had a lot of good games this season, but the one Tuesday may have been his best.

Attention Atlanta Braves' front office: right-handed pitching prospect Charlie Morton may be showing he's finished with his minor league experience. The latest evidence was his outstanding start for Richmond Tuesday night in Durham.

Morton won his fifth game of the season pitching eight shutout innings, with only one hit allowed, one walk, and 13 strikeouts. The only hit for the Bulls was a nubber down the third base line by Nathan Haynes that stayed fair. He was Durham's first batter of the game. After that hit, Morton retired the next fourteen batters.

The 24-year-old threw 122 pitches, 81 for strikes. He stayed at 93-95 mph consistently on the radar gun, topping out at 96 mph.

After his impressive start, Morton is now 5-1 on the season with a 1.70 ERA. He's allowed 47 hits in 74 innings, allowing 16 runs, 14 earned runs, 24 walks, and 68 strikeouts. Batters are hitting just .179 off him, and Morton has yet to allow a home run.

"It was about as good as it gets, against a very, very good team," Richmond pitching coach Guy Hansen said. "He's looked good all year. Today he even added the low slider against lefties and when you can command it over the plate as a strikeout pitch they're not going to have a chance."

"He's the real deal."

The Braves have been very careful with Morton, who is still riding the wave of success that started late last season in Mississippi and carried through to the Arizona Fall League. They have resisted bringing Morton up for a spot start, and hope when he does come up it'll be for the long term.

But the question now is, when will that be? You have to wonder if Morton is going to wonder what else he has to do to get a chance to pitch in the big leagues.

"He's ready," Hansen believed. "He's major league ready now."

The Braves rotation is currently pretty full, with Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Tom Glavine, Jo Jo Reyes, and Jorge Campillo. Would the Braves consider moving Campillo back to the bullpen to make room for Morton? But then, what happens if, and yes it's a big if, Mike Hampton returns in a few weeks from his pectoral muscle injury?

Either way, Morton is making the decision a bit easier with his performance. He beat a very, very good lineup Tuesday in the Durham Bulls, who are fourth in the International League with a .265 team batting average. Durham's lineup included several players who have been in the big leagues, including Nathan Haynes, Dan Johnson, Joel Guzman, Chris Richard, and top prospects Reid Brignac and Justin Ruggiano.

"That was impressive," Hansen continued. "He could've finished the game. It hasn't always been one pitch with Charlie. It's been the curveball on occasion. It's been his changeup on occasion. And he's really harnessing his fastball. But tonight, he had it all working."

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and on The Bill Shanks Show on SportsRadio 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at

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