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Morales shows improvement vs. Sox

Morales shows improvement vs. Sox

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle seemed to enjoy the hot, sunny afternoon at Hi Corbett Field on Tuesday. He delighted in an easy first four innings by rookie left-hander Franklin Morales against the White Sox.

As for Morales' fifth, during which the first five batters reached on three hits and two walks -- one to pitcher Mark Buehrle -- the manager must have wondered, "Why spoil a beautiful day?"

Sure, the 5-2 loss featured another inconsistent outing by a starter. But this one was better than Morales' last two, when the good stretches were shorter. Although Hurdle won't announce the back of his rotation, Morales is lined up to be the No. 4 starter and could start the April 4 home opener. Now is as good a time as any for Hurdle to celebrate the positive.

"Downhill plane, pitching with intent when appropriate, better breaking ball, better changeup," Hurdle said of Morales. "Downhill, low strikes. For four innings, you couldn't ask for any more improvement from what we've seen. The fifth inning got a little bit away from him."

The spring has been notable for extremely good and extremely bad sequences from Morales (1-2, 6.65 spring ERA) and No. 2 starter Ubaldo Jimenez, a right-hander. Both are about to be on the team for the first time on Opening Day. Hurdle expects them to learn.

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To help, Hurdle said he will have Morales study Buehrle, who gave up one run in six innings. Jimenez also will be learning from Sox right-hander Javier Vazquez, who threw a strong outing against the Rox earlier in the spring. Hurdle plans to have video of both games available to the pitchers Wednesday.

"When you repeat your delivery, you can do a lot of things," Hurdle said.

Right-hander Taylor Buchholz emerged unscathed from a bases-loaded jam with one out in the ninth, lowering his spring ERA to 1.59.

Leadoff man Willy Taveras had his ninth stolen base Tuesday. It was his fifth in the last three games.

While lefty Jeff Francis will start against the D-backs on Wednesday, right-hander Josh Towers, left-hander Mark Redman and lefty reliever Brian Fuentes will throw in a Minor League game.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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