Morton his own harshest critic after second spring start as a Brave

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton works in the first inning of the team's spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Sarasota, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton works in the first inning of the team's spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Sarasota, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

In his second spring training outing Wednesday, Charlie Morton, one of two free agent signees the Braves are counting upon to shore up their starting rotation, sounded none too pleased with his breaking ball, his fastball, his execution or his location.

And still, he has yet to give up an earned run this spring. There is no pleasing some people.

Atop the three scoreless innings he threw 10 days ago, Morton Wednesday night went 4 1/3 innings against Baltimore, giving up an unearned run on four hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

Morton’s self-evaluation was unsparing:

“I made quite a few mistakes. ... I try to not give myself too much credit for success in spring training because hitters are still really trying to work on their timing. Guys don’t hit their stride until May, June sometimes.

“I’m not sure it’s a good barometer for where I’m at, because, honestly, my stuff wasn’t that sharp and I felt my locations weren’t that sharp.

“The biggest thing was getting those five ups and trying to work on my endurance and keep my delivery. You’re still building up, getting your legs under you. It can be frustrating, but we got through it.”

Maybe it’s because Morton is still troubled by the memory of last season, when he was slow to get back into rhythm after the summer COVID restart. With Tampa Bay, his ERA hovered over 5.00 for the first month of the renewed season.

“I came into that mini-camp and I didn’t feel good. I just wasn’t ready. And it took me a while. I felt like I was pitching in spring training for a good month and a half. Eventually it came back late in the season and even more so in the playoffs,” he said.

He seems determined not to replay that again.

Best part of the night for Morton, whose home is 45 minutes from the Braves spring park: “My wife and kids were here. Pretty sweet she can come out and watch after last year.”

From Wednesday’s game

Getting clear of the COVID protocols that have kept him out of sight – but not out of mind – since last Thursday, third-baseman Austin Riley was back in the lineup as expected for the 5-2 loss to the Orioles.

Riley’s uncertain status may have kept him out of the scheduled spring training games for the better part of the week, but he has not been lacking for work. As manager Brian Snitker noted, Riley hit during Max Fried’s five-inning simulated outing Tuesday and, “got more at-bats than if he had played in the game.”

Given the lack of minor league and split-squad games this spring – another COVID concession – the Braves are getting a lot of their work done outside the regularly-scheduled competition.

Snitker said these unseen, intrasquad exercises have been surprisingly competitive. “It’s amazing, we’ve been doing (the simulated outings) on the stadium field, and that adds a little something more than the back field. I didn’t realize that until we’ve been doing it up there, it gets a tad competitive, which is good. Playing on that big diamond has something to do with it.”

One of the focal points of spring, Riley was hitless in three at-bats, with one strikeout Wednesday. He is now 5-for-17 with five strikeouts this spring.

No question about Ozzie Albies righthanded power, he hit his second home run of the spring off Baltimore leftie John Means.

Pitching the final three innings Wednesday, Huascar Ynoa didn’t advance his cause to start the season as the Braves’ fifth starter, giving up five hits – three of them doubles – and four runs, three earned.

Roster move

The Braves reassigned catcher Shea Langeliers to their minor league camp, leaving them with four catchers in camp.

Langeliers (No. 65) was one four of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects among the Braves in camp. He and Drew Waters (No. 22) both have been reassigned. Outfielder Cristian Pache (No. 10) and starting pitcher Ian Anderson (No. 34) remain.

Still awaiting Soroka

All reports remain optimistic on the recovery of starting pitcher Mike Soroka from his Achilles tendon surgery. The team’s opening-day starter in 2020 ruptured the tendon during his third start of that season while lunging off the mound to field a ground ball.

While he’s said to be on track, perhaps, to pitch near the end of the season’s first month, no word yet whether he might make an appearance before the end of the Braves stay in Florida this month.

“That’s still kind of up in the air,” Snitker said Wednesday. “He’s checking all the boxes, doing everything. I don’t know if the medical staff has decided that or not. Not sure yet.”

Next up

The Braves have Thursday off and are scheduled to host Minnesota on Friday evening. Ian Anderson – who has struck out nine in 5-1/3 innings, with an ERA of 5.06 thus far this spring – is scheduled to start against the Twins.

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