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Pittsburgh Pirates, Charlie Morton Avoid Arbitration

The Pittsburgh Pirates and starting pitcher Charlie Morton have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.445 million contract, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Gazette. It's the first year that Morton has been eligible for arbitration, and he's cashed in after a breakout season in 2011.

Morton, 28, struggled for the most part in his first three MLB seasons. Making at least 15 starts each year from 2008-2010, Morton posted a combined ERA of 5.98 in 251 innings while struggling with his command and giving up home runs.

Things turned around in 2011 as he changed his delivery, though, significantly improving his ability to keep the ball on the ground to the point where he's one of the top ground-balling pitchers in the game. After inducing grounders on 47 percent of his batted balls in 2010, that number jumped up to 59 percent in 2011, and the number of homers that he allowed promptly plummeted.

The results were fantastic, as Morton posted a 3.83 ERA in 171 innings to establish himself as the top starter for the Pirates. While he still leaves much to be desired in terms of walks and strikeouts, his ability to avoid home runs should make him a solid starter for a while.