Five more things to know about new Rays RHP Charlie Morton, who Friday officially signed a two-year, $30 million deal after pitching the last two seasons with the Astros:
Charlie Morton comes with two nicknames. Going back to his Pirates days, he was known as Ground Chuck, a reference to his high rate of getting ground balls. But since closing out Game 7 of the 2017 World Series for the Astros over the Dodgers, he is known, in the more polite version, as Charlie Freaking Morton and, more relevant for the social media crowd, hash-tagged #CFM. Sound cool? There's even a T-shirt for it, though currently sold out in Astros colors, at breakingt.com. Morton has told reporters he is aware of the nickname and appreciated it but didn't have deep thoughts on it.
Morton's two-year, $30-million contract comes with an interesting third-year team option. His 2021 salary is determined by how many days he spends on the DL the first two years, with a range from $1 million to $15 million. For example, if he is on the DL for 30 days or less total in 2019-20, his salary would be set at $15 million and then the Rays would have the choice of whether to pick it up. If he misses 200 or more days, his salary would be $1 million, and the Rays would have the same choice. (And Morton, in theory, could have the choice to retire if he didn't want to play for $1 million.) The other salaries, based on the DL days, are scaled at $3 million, $5 million and $10 million. All of that is done to protect the Rays to some degree if he is injured and then comes back strong.
Morton has floated the idea of retiring to spend more time with his wife and four young kids, or at least wanting to play for a team near his wife's family base in Delaware. But the Rays offered a better option, since the Mortons have an off-season home in Bradenton, the Pirates spring training base. And, from what Morton told the Pittsburgh-based FOB Sports blog in April 2018, he likes hanging around there, and keeps busy: "The biggest thing is spending time with my family. That's what I love doing. But I also play guitar. I sing. I read. I play video games. I got into coffee, like actual espresso grinding and pulling some shots. A little barista action. I got into woodworking when I was rehabbing from TJ (in 2012). That's something that I like doing. I'm not really like a super crafty person, but that would be something I would consider a craft that I've gotten into. I really like barbecue. I have two smokers. I have a nice big offset that I got last offseason that I spent a lot of time on this offseason."
Morton started his pro career in 2002 as a third-round pick by the Braves out of Barlow High in Redding, Conn. It took him six years to get to the majors and another three until he had a full season. Injuries have been an issue all along, as he had surgery on his right hip twice, on a torn right elbow ligament and a shredded hamstring. He also has missed time in the majors with a sore back, oblique strain, arm fatigue, elbow inflammation, and a lat strain. "I feel like he's always been a really good pitcher, just he's never been able to have those healthy seasons and kind of put it all together and really show people what he's about,'' former Houston teammate Lance McCullers Jr. said. "And he's done that these last two years. He's shown people the pitcher he was capable of being. He's shown people how he can dominate on the big stage. He's gotten the biggest outs you can ask him to get. For the most part he's taken the ball pretty much every opportunity he's gotten with us. He's a guy you instantly root for, you instantly pull for. You want nothing but the best for him because of the way he treats people and the effort he goes out there and gives.''
No, not those Mortons
Morton has no ties, family or otherwise, to the Morton's steak house chain. Why is that noteworthy? Because he got asked about it during the 2017 ALCS, when someone (ex-teammate Jared Hughes was suspected and accused) changed Morton's wikipedia page to say he was, and a reporter saw that and asked him about it. Also untrue, apparently, was the addendum that he was "infamous for owning a steakhouse and is a steak connoisseur" and a has a pregame routine which includes eating a 2-pound steak before each start.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays