PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Bryan Morris has been very effective out of the Pirates' bullpen with a 2-0 record and a 2.00 ERA entering Sunday's game.
Morris' fastball has averaged 95.2 mph this season, up from 94.1 mph last year, and he has also added some sink to the pitch. That has resulted in Morris' strikeout total rising, as he has seven in his first nine innings after having 37 in 65 frames last year for an average of 5.12 per nine innings.
A slight change in mechanics has benefited Morris.
"Early in the spring, we made a slight adjustment with my mechanics and basically we simplified everything," Morris said. "When I simplify everything, everything kind of just started falling in line and that just made it easier for me on the mound. All I had to worry about was going out and throwing the ball in the zone and competing."
Fastball command is the big key for Morris.
"The change helped tremendously with command," Morris said. "I got a little better with my fastball command in Spring Training, and that allowed me to attack with my fastball and then use my other pitches later in the count."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has been impressed with what Morris has done so far.
"Increase in velocity, crispness of pitches," Hurdle said. "He's the same guy we were talking about last summer not having strikeouts. I think he's got a big arm and I think it's going to happen; it's maturity, experience. Comfort zone coming back, [and] he's gone through it a little bit. He's faced hitters, he's pitched meaningful innings.
"[Morris'] confidence is up, and he got in a good place with whatever glitches he might have felt he had. The delivery is clean and the fastball command has improved. There is more velocity, and there is definitely more tilt and break in the cutter, slider. He's been very good."
Hurdle, Searage remain confident in starting pitchers
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates starting pitchers are a combined 3-8 through 18 games, and they haven't been as sharp as pitching coach Ray Searage would like.
"We are addressing some problems right now," Searage said. "Sometimes we're getting some hiccups, there is no doubt about that. We're not the sharpest that we can be, and that's going to take some time, but the [bullpen sessions] were addressed. We are having conversations on hitters and stuff and execution of pitches and what we have to do in order to be successful and be consistent. There's a lot of things that we're addressing."
Despite the early woes, Manager Clint Hurdle believes that his pitching staff will get the job done.
"I'm confident they are going to correct," Hurdle said. "It is a small sample size, because there's been volumes within the work that have been very clean and efficient. It's consistency, it's conviction with that intent to get the execution that we need. That's how we feel.
"Right now, it's not adjustments that need to be made other than get to the point where we're able to repeat our delivery, and we've got conviction with every pitch we've got."
• Entering Sunday, Andrew McCutchen led the National League with 15 walks, and he is on pace for 135 this year. The club record for most walks in a season is held by Ralph Kiner, who walked a league-leading 137 times in 1951.
• In the last three games, Pirates pinch-hitters have combined to go 4-for-7 with a home run and five RBIs. This season, the Bucs have gone 10-for-33 (.303) with two home runs and a league leading 10s RBI off the bench.
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.