This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: November 12th, Charlie Morton

Slow news day for Pittsburgh Pirates history. We have two players born on this date and two transactions.

Charlie Morton, pitcher for the 2009-15 Pirates. He came over to Pittsburgh in the Nate McLouth trade on June 3, 2009. Prior to the trade he went 4-8 6.15 in 15 starts with the Atlanta Braves in 2008, his first bit of big league action. He was in the minors for all of 2009 with Atlanta. Morton was immediately thrown into the Pirates starting rotation, where he went 5-9 4.55 in 18 starts, finishing his season with a complete game shutout of the Chicago Cubs on September 30th. In mid-August that same Cubs team scored ten runs off Morton before he was lifted in the second inning without recording an out, which really skewed his season ERA.

In 2010 Morton struggled the first two months before being sent to Triple-A, where he went 4-4, 3.82 in 14 starts. Following his promotion to the big leagues, Morton struggled in his first start back, leaving him with a 10.03 ERA. He finished the year much better though, as he lowered his season ERA in each of his last six starts, getting it down to 7.57 on the next to last day of the season. His 2011 season surprised many who had written him off as a potential starter. He finished with a 10-10 record, cut his ERA in half to 3.83, and he was able to pitch 171.2 innings. He threw two complete games, including his second career shutout against the Cincinnati Reds on May 18th. Morton had off-season hip surgery to repair a torn labrum, which had a six-month recovery time, so he missed the beginning of the 2012 season.

Morton came back for nine starts in 2012 and struggled, then needed Tommy John Surgery. He returned in June of 2013 and made 20 starts, going 7-4, 3.26 in 116 innings. He made one playoff start and lost against St Louis, allowing two runs in 5.2 innings. He signed a three-year extension prior to the 2014 season, but missed time due to a hip injury, which cost him the early part of the 2015 season. Morton would end up making 23 starts in 2015, going 9-9, 4.81 in 129 innings. In seven seasons in Pittsburgh he has a 41-62 4.39 record in 142 starts.

Morton was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during the final season of his contract and he was injured during his fourth start, which ended his season. As a free agent, he signed with the Houston Astros and was part of their tainted World Series win in 2017. He was with the Tampa Bay Rays over the last two seasons, pitching well in 2019, then struggling in 2020, with a 4.74 ERA in nine starts. Morton did great in his first three postseason starts, then gave up five runs in 4.1 innings during his only World Series start. In 13 seasons, he has a 93-89, 4.08 record in 258 starts (one relief appearance). He was an All-Star during the 2018-19 seasons.

Dave Otto, pitcher for the 1993 Pirates. He started his career with the Oakland A’s, briefly seeing Major League time each season from 1987 until 1990, pitching just nine games total over those four seasons. He then got two extended looks with the Cleveland Indians, posting a 2-8 record in 1991 and improving to 5-9 the next year although he had a 7.06 ERA in his 16 starts and two relief appearances in 1992. The Pirates acquire him from the Indians during the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft during the winter meetings in December of 1992. Pittsburgh used him as a starter during the first two months of the season and he went 2-3, 4.43 in eight starts. He was moved to the bullpen in June, where he lowered his ERA to 4.09 through late July, but a very poor outing against the Philadelphia Phillies, followed by two subpar appearances, spelled the end of his Pirates career. He was released in mid-August, finishing with a 3-4, 5.03 record in 68 innings. He played one more season, for the Chicago Cubs, before retiring. Otto was drafted twice in the second round. The first time was out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles in 1982. The second time was three years later by the A’s. He had a 5.06 ERA over 318.1 innings during his eight seasons in the majors.

The Transactions

On this date in 2014, the Pirates traded pitcher Justin Wilson to the New York Yankees for catcher Francisco Cervelli. Wilson pitched 128 games for the Pirates over the 2013-14 seasons, posting a 2.08 ERA in 2013, followed by a 4.20 ERA in 70 games in 2014. Cervelli helped replace Russell Martin, who left via free agency. Since the trade, Wilson has been a solid reliever, though he was only with the Yankees for one year. Since then he has pitched for the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets. In his career he has a 3.27 ERA in 429.1 innings over 480 appearances. Cervelli played five seasons in Pittsburgh, hitting .264/.362/.374 in 450 games. He posted a total of 8.7 WAR, with 3.4 coming in 130 games during his first year with the Pirates, and another 3.1 coming in 2018 when he played 104 games.

On this date in 1983 the Pirates sold pitcher Bob Owchinko to the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates originally acquired him from the Cleveland Indians in the Bert Blyleven trade. Before he could play a game for the Pirates he was traded to the Oakland A’s in exchange for pitcher Ernie Camacho. Owchinko pitched in relief for Oakland for two seasons before signing with Pittsburgh as a free agent in May of 1983. The Pirates sent him to Triple-A and switched him back to the starting role where he went 10-6, 4.25 with 124 strikeouts in 137.2 innings pitched. He was a September call-up and he made his Pittsburgh debut in the ninth inning of game two of a September 5th doubleheader against the Cardinals. He allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, Andy Van Slyke, and then a double to the next batter before being taken out. It was his only appearance in a Pirates uniform. Owchinko was the fifth overall pick in the 1976 amateur draft and had a 37-60, 4.28 career record. We recently did a Card of the Day article featuring his 1981 Donruss card.