PITTSBURGH (AP) -Matt Morris will stay in the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting rotation, despite his major league-worst 9.15 ERA and a string of four bad starts in which the Pirates have lost by an average of five runs.
Manager John Russell praised Morris for his don't-give-in mentality and determination to turn his season around, and seemed to suggest Tuesday there has been no thought given to moving him to the bullpen or releasing him.
``He's a class act, he's going to work however hard it takes to get himself better,'' Russell said. ``We don't need to give him a Knute Rockne speech everyday. ... I would be very surprised if he didn't turn himself around.''
With Morris unable to consistently locate a fastball that is usually in the 85- to 86-miles per hour range, he is going through the worst stretch of his career. The one-time 22-game winner for St. Louis is 0-3. He has allowed 18 earned runs and 27 hits in 15 2-3 innings over his last three starts.
The right-handed Morris called Monday's 10-4 defeat to Florida one of the worst of his career, after he fell behind 7-2 in the third inning and yielded eight runs and nine hits in four innings. The Pirates have been outscored 28-9 in his last three starts.
``I did all the things I used to do to have success, and ... it's just not there,'' Morris said.
The problem is the Pirates have too much invested in the 33-year-old Morris to give up on him so early in a season.
Morris and his nearly $10.1 million salary for this season were picked up from the Giants in a surprise trading deadline deal last July, an uncommon trade at the time between two last-place teams. Former Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield's thinking was Morris would provide stability and a reliable arm to a young staff that otherwise had no starter older than 25.
What Littlefield didn't count on - and he was fired a month after the trade was made - was that Morris would be so bad that no contending team might want to pick up a pitcher who averaged nearly 16 wins per season with the Cardinals from 2001-05.
``As difficult as it is to watch, it's 10 times more difficult to deal with,'' Morris said.
ers on Monday.
``Obviously, he doesn't throw as hard as he used to,'' said Russell, who refuses to blame the decreased velocity for Morris' struggles. ``He's got to get command of his fastball. He doesn't have to throw 97 to be successful - you can see that with (Tom) Glavine, (Greg) Maddux, command is the biggest weapon they have. When you do throw harder, you can make more mistakes but, right now, he's not that power guy so command becomes his biggest friend.''
Morris felt he was back on track while throwing between starts, only to allow four runs in the second inning and three in the third inning while consistently falling behind in the count.
``He knows what he wants to do but, right now, for some reason, whether it's a little glitch in mechanics or his release point, it's not allowing him to throw the ball where he wants it,'' Russell said. ``Once he gets that figured out, he should be fine because he has the competitiveness, the know-how to pitch, he knows how to read hitters. He's just not able to execute the pitch right now.''

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