With Ross Ohlendorf set to return from the disabled list tomorrow, the Pittsburgh Pirates had to make a choice between Brian Burres and Jeff Karstens for the final spot in the rotation. (Anyone remember about a month ago when they were choosing between Daniel McCutchen and Kevin Hart for the same role?) The Pirates today picked Burres to remain in the rotation, with Karstens going to the bullpen.
Neither Burres nor Karstens is anything more than what you’d expect from a fifth starter, although both have been good in their time in the rotation this year, which made the decision somewhat complicated. Burres has three starts this year, with a 3.31 ERA, a 5.0 K/9, and a 1.0 K/BB ratio. The K/BB ratio is disappointing, as Burres is allowing too many walks, and benefitting from a high 75.8% strand rate. His FIP this season is 4.68, which is up from his 4.09 ERA on the season.
Karstens meanwhile has a 4.08 ERA in his three starts, with a 5.6 K/9, and a 1.57 K/BB ratio. Karstens benefitted from an even luckier strand rate (78.5%), but had a 4.50 FIP, which ranks better than Burres. Most likely Burres will have about a month in the rotation until Brad Lincoln is ready, although Lincoln’s 4.19 ERA at the AAA level, with a 6.6 K/9 and a 2.27 K/BB ratio, isn’t exactly setting the world on fire.
Since Ohlendorf will come off the disabled list tomorrow, the Pirates will have to clear a space for him. My guess is that Brian Bass will be sent down, especially with Karstens moving to the bullpen. There’s no need to have Bass and Karstens in the pen, especially with D.J. Carrasco also available for multiple inning appearances. I don’t think Burres’ grip on the rotation is very secure, especially with the way Karstens pitched in his three starts. If Burres starts to struggle, I could see Karstens taking over right away.