Next step for Morton's rehab to be determined

Next step for Morton's rehab to be determined

CHICAGO -- Charlie Morton is on his way back to the Pirates to consult on his next step. Whether that step will take him back away from the big league club, to resume his Minor League rehab assignment, is to be seen.

"That's what we will have a conversation about," Clint Hurdle said Friday morning.

Morton will join the Bucs here on Saturday and throw a bullpen session for pitching coach Ray Searage, then they'll all put their heads together to determine what Morton will do next.

In his second rehab start, the first at the Triple-A level, Morton allowed one earned run in seven innings with Indianapolis against Norfolk on Thursday night. The command Morton showed in not even having a three-ball count to any of the 31 hitters he faced could have been the most significant development.

"It would be for me," Hurdle concurred. "His ability to retire hitters on three pitches or fewer has also been in a good place."

Fans are tempted to arrive at a conclusion by the fact Morton is on the same pitching schedule as Vance Worley, who endured his second straight sour outing on Thursday in Philadelphia. Combine that with Worley having already been out of the rotation until the late decision to have Morton begin the season on the disabled list, and Worley's hold on the spot appears tenuous.

Six days after throwing seven scoreless innings for Double-A Altoona, Morton was as sharp for Indianapolis. According to Indians pitching coach Stan Kyles' detailed report to Hurdle, Morton hit the strike zone on 50 out of 66 fastballs -- ranging in speed from 88-to-92 mph -- and on 14 of 25 curves, while starting off 22 of the 31 batters with strikes.

"It was another step forward," Hurdle summed up.

Three-bagger

• First: Lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo returned from Pittsburgh following the Monday birth of son Byron, and he was reinstated off the paternity list on Friday.

• Second: With Bastardo's return, southpaw Bobby LaFromboise was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday -- but not before he threw one shutout inning against the Phillies on Thursday, a look that will help him get future consideration for a recall.

• Third: Jung Ho Kang began Friday third behind a couple of Cubbies in hits by National League rookies since April 29. However -- Kang got his 13 hits in 35 at-bats, compared to Jorge Soler's 16 in 56 and Addison Russell's 15 in 50.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.