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By Chad Carlson

Photo Credit: AP/Eric Gay

Well, if Charlie Morton wasn’t the favorite to be part of the Pirates’ starting pitching rotation before, he certainly should be after today’s game.  Brian Burres, who is considered to be one of the candidates for the club’s final pitching rotation spot for the start of the 2011 regular season, was lit up today by a Houston Astros team that isn’t expected to have much pop in their lineup at all.
Burres gave up six earned runs on ten hits through five innings of work, as the Astros jumped on top of the Buccos early and never relinquished the lead.  While Houston’s starter, J.A. Happ, didn’t fair much better on the afternoon, giving up five runs on nine hits through six, his bullpen did enough to fend off the Pirates’ bats throughout the latter part of the ballgame.  The Astros won the game by a score of 10-6.
After Burres’s performance today, it SHOULD be clear that the left-hander does not belong in the starting role.  He’ll make a bullpen spot, and he probably should, but he’s not cut out to be a starting pitcher on a regular basis.  This, along with rumors and expectations of Brad Lincoln beginning 2011 in the minor leagues, make it almost a guarantee that Charlie Morton will be the fifth and final member of the Pirates’ starting pitching rotation when the regular season begins next week.
While the pitching certainly wasn’t sharp this afternoon, the same cannot be said about the offense.  The Buccos totaled 14 hits today, including four players tallying multi-hit games, including Andrew McCutchen, who had a homerun and two RBI’s while raising his spring batting average to a frightfully impressive .370.  Pedro Alvarez also had a round-tripper this afternoon, while Ryan Doumit and Lyle Overbay had two-hit performances. 
It was nice to see Ronny Cedeno hit well at the plate as well, adding two hits and scoring a run.  Cedeno is sure to be the shortstop, if not for the future, definitely for the present, so it was encouraging to see his continued impressive play this afternoon.
With the loss, the Pirates fell to 10-16 this spring.  The Buccos will travel to Sarasota, Florida tomorrow to take on the Baltimore Orioles for the final time this spring at 7:05pm ET.  Baltimore has been a nemesis for the Pirates this spring in their previous meetings.  Ross Ohlendorf will make the start for Pittsburgh, while Evan Meek, Garrett Olson, and Chris Leroux are also scheduled to make appearances.
And…
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!