Notes: Morales keeps pitching well

Notes: Morales keeps pitching well

TUSCON, Ariz. -- Taking his second turn through an early March Cactus League rotation, Franklin Morales had a serviceable outing against the White Sox, doing nothing to hurt his chances at securing one of the two open spots in the Rockies' rotation, though coming short of gaining a leg up on the stiff competition for the slots.

Morales pitched three innings on Wednesday, retiring the side in order in the first inning before encountering difficulty in the second. He opened the inning with a walk to Jermaine Dye, who later scored an unearned run after a Jayson Nix error at second and a sacrifice fly from Josh Fields. Later in the inning, Morales yielded another walk and an infield single, but minimized the damage, escaping the remainder of the inning unscathed.

Of more concern was a fastball in the third that Dye took over the left-field fence for Morales' only earned run of the game. Again, he had minimized the damage by inducing Jim Thome into a double play on the previous at-bat with the same pitch.

"I'm happy with my fastball," Morales said, identifying his use of the pitch over three innings as one of his strengths on the day. "I threw my fastball whenever I wanted."

Without dwelling on the long ball, Morales identified his secondary pitches as an area he is still focusing on for improvement.

"I need to work a little more with my changeup," Morales said, noting that he may have thrown four, with mixed results. "When I'm behind in the count, I need to make my pitch."

Manager Clint Hurdle was succinct in his assessment of Morales' day on the hill.

"He's still working on some things, repeating his delivery, strike zone efficiency," Hurdle said. "When he did throw the strikes, they were quality strikes. [Just] not enough of them."

Morales made his big league debut last August and was 3-2 in eight starts for the Rockies during their pennant drive, with Colorado winning the last seven games he started. He started one game each in the Division Series and the League Championship Series and made two relief appearances in the World Series.

Hirsh scratched: Jason Hirsh was scheduled to pitch in Wednesday's game, but was scratched after experiencing some shoulder discomfort in his last bullpen session, the result of some inflammation, according to head trainer Keith Dugger.

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"It's just normal soreness, normal Spring Training stuff," Hirsh said on Wednesday morning. "When you get heated up and start facing hitters again, sometimes you overdo it a little bit. They're just erring on the side of caution. I threw my bullpen session and I wasn't real comfortable. They said just go ahead and take a couple extra days off and they'll run me back out there."

As the schedule stands, Hirsh will resume his pursuit of the No. 4 slot in the rotation when he is scheduled to face the Giants in Scottsdale on Sunday. Dugger was not prepared to say if Hirsh would be cleared to pitch any earlier.

Hurdle emphasized that he was not worried that Hirsh's missed appearance could affect his readiness to be in the rotation come Opening Day.

"Just let it play itself out," Hurdle said. "I have no concerns. Just that we want him to get healthy."

Quintanilla contused: Shortstop Omar Quintanilla suffered a left quadriceps contusion in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game while chasing a foul fly up against the stands beyond the third-base dugout. Quintanilla stayed in the game and made an inning-ending play at shortstop, but was lifted for pinch-hitter Chris Nelson in the bottom of the inning.

The bruise is not considered serious, and Quintanilla is considered day-to-day.

Cactus highlight reel: Moments after his second-inning error, Nix wowed the crowd on a good grab to contain Danny Richar's two-out single with runners on first and second, keeping it in the infield and saving a run.

"What other people have seen is probably remarkably better than what we even thought we had with [Kazuo] Matsui [at second last year]," said Hurdle. "I haven't seen him for the length of time everyone else has. I've seen him about two weeks, two straight Spring Trainings. But I've heard all the great defensive things, and I heard the wonderful offense he put together the second half of the season and over the winter. We're just going to let him play and get his at-bats and find a good zone."

Up next: Southpaw Mark Redman will climb the hill in Peoria Thursday to take on the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Jake Peavy, at 1:05 p.m. MT.

Jeff Francis will start in a "B" game against the White Sox Thursday at 10 a.m. MT, facing fellow-left-hander Andrew Sisco.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.