Astros agree to 2-year deal with right-hander Morton
HOUSTON (AP) Right-hander Charlie Morton agreed to a contract with Houston on Wednesday, giving the Astros two of the best groundball pitchers in the majors.
Morton accepted a $14 million, two-year deal that includes annual salaries of $7 million and performance bonuses of $625,000 apiece for 12, 20, 25 and 30 starts each season.
Morton, who ranks second in the majors among active pitchers in career groundball to fly ball ratio (2.48), joins a staff that features last year's American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, a lefty who leads the league in that category (2.84).
''I think that's where the match comes, his ability to get the ball on the ground and our ability to position our fielders and get the outs on the ground,'' manager A.J. Hinch said. ''We're getting pretty good at that. So it seems like a perfect fit for us.''
Morton made just four starts last season for the Phillies before a torn left hamstring which required surgery ended his year. It was the fourth surgery Morton has had in recent years including Tommy John surgery in 2012. But he said Wednesday that he's healthy now and has thrown six bullpen sessions since recovering from his hamstring injury, including three where he threw more than 50 pitches.
The 33-year-old Morton has spent his entire nine-year career in the National League where he played for the Braves, Pirates and Phillies.
He doesn't think the transition to the AL will be that difficult.
''It doesn't really matter who you're facing, it doesn't really matter how lineups are structured,'' Morton said. ''If you make quality pitches and take care of ... one hitter at a time, at the end of the day you'll look back and have done it right.''
Morton is 46-71 with a 4.54 ERA in his career. His best season came in 2011 when he pitched a career-high 171.2 innings in 29 starts and won a career-best 10 games.
The Astros are trying to add depth to a rotation that was hit hard by injuries late last season, hurting its chase for a wild-card playoff spot.
''We saw last season with our rotation that depth matters and we had six starters for the whole year until we passed the trade deadline and then all of the sudden two of our starters go on the shelf and we were a little short-handed,'' general manager Jeff Luhnow said. ''We know it takes eight or nine starters to get through the year. We really love the quality of what Charlie brings in terms of his pitches and the effectiveness of that pitches and what he's been able to do.''
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.