By Andrew Fillipponi

It’s sad but true, I really believe the success of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 comes down to the pitching of Charlie Morton.  Well, and James McDonald.  cmortongetty1 Fillipponi: More out of MortonReally any pitcher who can show the ability to strike somebody out.

Why is that?…Did you see the defense this weekend in Chicago?  Pedro Alvarez sheepish defensive plays on Opening Day.  Lyle Overbay let a ground ball eat him up on Saturday.  Ronny Cedeno’s cross-eyed throw to Neil Walker in the ninth inning Sunday.  I don’t think the Wrigley Field faithful confused the Bucs infield for Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance.

Last year, the Pirates had the worst fielding percentage in baseball.  The ebullience of Clint Hurdle hasn’t corrected the Pirates weak defense.

Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, and Ross Ohlendorf throw to contact.  That’s asking for an ulcer.

That’s why Charlie Morton’s return to the bump Monday night against the Cardinals, and his 2011 season mean so much to the Bucs.  They need starting pitchers who take the defense out of the equation.  Pitchers who strike people out. The best strikeout pitcher in the organization is a teenager who hasn’t thrown a pitch in professional baseball (J.Taillon).

I’m going to print it.  Charlie Morton has the makeup to be a strikeout pitcher.  He doesn’t get by on guile or smarts.  He’s a raw talent guy.  In his last start of 2010, he struck out 9 Marlins in six innings.  He was the story of spring training.  For what that’s worth.

A big theme this year will be development of the Pirates pitching.  Who’s worth keeping around?  In most places, Charlie Morton wouldn’t be getting a second chance after last year’s disaster.

My advice to Morton on Monday, James McDonald, and any other precocious Pirates pitching talent that gets called up this year: rack up the strikeouts.  If they don’t this defense might just shatter the confidence of Pittsburgh’s already young, shaky starters.

by Andrew Fillipponi

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