Astros starter Charlie Morton made an appearance for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies in his return from injury.
One member of the Astros‘ decimated rotation is on his way back. Starter Charlie Morton made his first rehab appearance on Thursday for Triple-A Fresno as he builds up for his return from a strained lat muscle.
In the start, Morton threw 36 pitches (22 strikes) over two innings. He gave up a solo home run along with two hits and a walk, striking out one. His other five outs all came on groundballs.
It’s likely he will have at least one more rehab start, if not more. Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reported the team hopes Morton can return to the rotation before the All-Star break.
The Astros signed the 33-year old Morton to a two-year, $14 million contract prior to this season. He posted a 4.06 ERA through his firsts 10 starts after making just four starts in 2016. The hard-throwing sinkerballer was cementing his claim to the No. 3 spot in the rotation when he went on the DL.
Morton’s recent success when healthy has often been attributed to his increased velocity.
Four-seam fastball velocity in 2016: 91.6 MPH
Four-seam fastball velocity in 2017: 96.0 MPH
Two-seam fastball velocity in 2016: 93.3 MPH
Two-seam fastball velocity in 2017: 95.3 MPH
In fact, this increased velocity has been cited as one of the main reasons the Astros signed him in the offseason despite his short-lived tenure as a Phillie due to a leg injury, which cut his 2016 season short.
With Lance McCullers‘ impending return, the Astros’ rotation situation is becoming less dire. Coming out of the All-Star break, the rotation could be at full strength depending on Dallas Keuchel‘s progress. This could enhance the team’s bargaining power in trade talks before the July 31 deadline.
For now, Morton’s progress is a good sign. His next rehab start has not yet been announced.
***Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, MiLB.com and Baseball-Reference***