The Pirates have placed RHP Charlie Morton on the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation and activated pitcher Juan Cruz from the restricted list. Morton's move is retroactive to May 30.
According to the Pirates, he will be "in rest mode" until the inflammation resolves. He will then progress through a throwing program and bullpen work before the next step in this progression is determined.
Brad Lincoln would seem to be the most obvious candidate to take Morton's place in the rotation for the next few weeks. Jeff Karstens' rehab start scheduled for last night was pushed back until today and he is probably a minimum of two weeks away from returning. However, as Michael Sanserino tweets, the Pirates may not need a fifth starter until June 9 because of various off days. Nonetheless, with Cruz back, this is the perfect opportunity to take a look at Lincoln.
This means the Pirates will have two lefties in the bullpen with Tony Watson and Doug Slaten. I spoke to Slaten's agent yesterday about his contract situation. Slaten had a clause in the contract he signed with the Pirates that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't added to the major league roster by June 1. Obviously, he was added when Cruz was placed on the restricted list.
What was news is that Slaten still has an option left and is not allowed to decline an assignment back to Indianapolis. However, according to his agent, the two sides would most likely come to terms on a new date where he could elect free agency, if the Pirates were to send him down. He also cited a very good working relationship with GM Neal Huntington.
A Pirates source told me yesterday Slaten wasn't going anywhere. Now we know why.
UPDATE: In a radio interview earlier in the week Ray Searage was asked about Morton's health and said he was fine, as far as he knew. Charlie has also repeatedly said he is healthy. Since May 1 he has made six starts, here are his numbers:
33.1 IP, 45 H, 24 R, 21 ER, 7 BB, 15 K, 4 HR 5.67 ERA, .331/.363/.507 .870 OPS 1.560 WHIP
As I mentioned in a thread earlier in the week, Morton is out of options. Here's to hoping nothing too serious is wrong.
UPDATE No. 2: Michael Sanserino, who is with the Pirates in Milwaukee, now tweets that he is hearing the Pirates could slide Brad LIncoln into a spot start early next week to give everyone a rest. As mentioned above, I think this makes the most sense. I'd be shocked if Karstens didn't get at least two more rehab starts in Indy, which would mean he's at least two weeks away. If Lincoln does well in a starting role his first time out, I'd think he will have a real chance to stay there permanently.
UPDATE No. 3 by Charlie: Brad Lincoln will get a start on Tuesday for the Bucs.