Pirates hurler Morton ready for rehab assignment

Polanco's ailing hamstring keeps outfielder out of Tuesday's starting lineup

Pirates hurler Morton ready for rehab assignment

CHICAGO -- Right-hander Charlie Morton is set to take another step toward his eventual return to the Pirates' rotation.

Morton, placed on the disabled list at the end of Spring Training, will begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Saturday, manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday.

Morton is slated to throw either seven innings or 90 pitches for Class A Advanced Bradenton in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

It will be Morton's first competitive game outside of extended spring action since an April 4 exhibition in Philadelphia in which he walked five batters and threw two wild pitches in 1 2/3 innings.

After undergoing offseason surgery on his right hip, Morton returned to full health this spring but struggled with his command as he attempted to sync up his delivery.

The Pirates sent Morton to extended spring camp in Bradenton, Fla., where he progressed from bullpen sessions and simulated games to competitive games. His most recent outing came Monday, when he threw about 75 pitches in six innings.

"All in all, I think it was a positive outing," Hurdle said. "I think the reps were good, the volume of pitches was good. He had a very candid, open conversation with [pitching coach Ray Searage]. We watched the video."

Hurdle said the Pirates weren't yet sure how many rehab starts Morton will need to make before rejoining the Major League team.

"We're taking 'em one at a time," Hurdle said.

In other injury news, right fielder Gregory Polanco remained sidelined Tuesday night because of tightness in his left groin, but he said he felt better after a day of rest and treatment, though he did pinch-hit in the eighth inning.

Polanco's RBI double

Polanco took pregame batting practice with the Pirates before Tuesday night's game at Wrigley Field. He was scratched Monday due to the injury, which he aggravated while legging out a double in his final at-bat Sunday in Arizona.

Polanco tried to get loose enough during Monday's warmups but couldn't.

"It's hard to warm up here in this cold weather," Polanco said. "I'll be fine."

With lefty Travis Wood starting for the Cubs, Hurdle loaded his lineup with right-handed hitters. First baseman Pedro Alvarez also got the day off, Corey Hart started at first base and Sean Rodriguez took Polanco's place in right field.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.