Pirates Notebook: Rotation Still Has Questions; Moves on Horizon
PITTSBURGH, PA — After the Pirates lost 3-2 to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday at PNC Park, Manager Clint Hurdle said that Jeff Karstens would get the ball on Monday in Philadelphia. Karstens was originally scheduled to make his final rehab start today in Triple-A, but was pulled from the start. Prior to the game Hurdle said they felt he was ready to rejoin the club’s starting rotation.
“Command, stuff got better, velocity spiked up as the outing went on,” General Manager Neal Huntington said on Karstens. “He really looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. He felt strong. He felt healthy. We would have put him back in the rotation had he not had the set back with the hip flexor. Shoulder-wise he feels as good as he’s felt in a long time. We felt like he was ready to come out here and compete at the Major League level.”
With Karstens set to start on Monday, the Pirates will have to make a corresponding roster move in order to add Karstens to the 25-man from the disabled list. He was originally placed on the DL due to right shoulder inflammation, but a setback during a rehab start kept him from coming back healthy.
“It was just one of those things where in Pawtucket I was throwing really well and unfortunately my hip kind of gave out on me,” Karstens said. “But I was able to bounce back and do everything that was asked of me. My bullpen went really well. We just kind of talked and I let them know how I was feeling. We came with this idea that I could start on Monday. I’m happy about it. Just want to help this team keep doing what they’re doing.”
“It was probably the best bullpen I threw from spring training throughout the whole year. Just as far as what I wanted to do with the baseball, put it where I wanted, make it do what I wanted. I’m in a pretty good place on the mound. Just trying to get prepared for Philly tomorrow night.”
Earlier this afternoon, the Pirates made several moves. Right-handed reliever Bryan Morris was recalled from the bullpen to help the taxed ‘pen. Three relievers were unavailable and Morris would provide an extra arm if needed. One was righty Jared Hughes, who sat for two days due to an injury. Hughes said after the game he was okay, and that he would be ready to go on Monday.
“It’s more of a physical condition that we are trying to work through. We gave him two days off and we’ll see where we will be tomorrow,” Hurdle said. “It’s been for a couple of weeks. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s been bothering him but it ramped up a bit where it wasn’t as pain manageable as he thought it was…We’re going to have him throw tomorrow. We’ll know more when he fires up tomorrow.”
They sent infielder Jordy Mercer to make room for Morris and claimed infielder Drew Sutton from Tampa Bay. Charlie Morton (Tommy John surgery) was transferred from the 60-day disabled list to make room for Sutton on the 40-man. Once he joins the Bucs early this week, the club will have to make yet another move to open up a spot.
“As we sit here today, we will be 13 pitchers, 12 position players,” General Manager Neal Huntington said. “One of the moves will be to rebalance that and we’ve got another move to make once everything falls into place.”
“[Sutton] gives us versatility, flexibility and a bat that we think will play,” Hurdle said.
With Karstens starting tomorrow, the rotation will all be pushed back one day. Right-hander Brad Lincoln will be moved into the bullpen. The series in Philly is as scheduled: Erik Bedard Tuesday, James McDonald Wednesday, A.J. Burnett Thursday. Kevin Correia is scheduled to start Friday’s opener with St. Louis. Hurdle said after the game they would not move forward with a six man rotation.
“We don’t plan on going with six right now,” Hurdle said. “I think if we thought we were arm weary, or something like that [maybe]. The one thing that everybody throws out, if you go with six, well you still need bullpen volume so you end up playing short on the bench that particular amount of time as well. We’re just trying to figure it out as we go. I think right now, we’re fixed on five and we’ll see if we need to readjust from there.”
Lincoln was coming off a very impressive start on Saturday night where he took a no-hit bit into the fifth inning. Overall, he allowed just two hits — the second was a solo-homer in the seventh which ended his outing — and struck out career-high seven. Lincoln, however, has been very solid out of the bullpen this season. In 20 innings, Lincoln has allowed just one earned run (0.45 ERA) while whiffing 23.
“It’s a move they had to make,” Lincoln said. “They had to make room for Karstens. It’s just one of those things you accept it and you play with it. I want to stay in the starting rotation, but I also want to be in a position to help the team. They believe in me to have a role in the bullpen and come in, in certain situations. We’ll roll with it and see what happens.”
Correia Settles Down After Two-Run First Inning
Kevin Correia’s start to the game on Sunday didn’t look promising. A leadoff single and a homer on a 1-1 pitch to rookie Quintin Berry quickly saw the Pirates down two runs before getting the chance to have an at-bat. Berry crushed a two-run shot to right field for his first Major League long ball. But Correia then retired his next three straight to end the inning. Correia has allowed 12 home runs in his last 10 starts.
“Four pitches in and I was down 2-0,” Correia said.”It was just one of those situations where the guy swings at the first pitch of the game, got a hit. Fell behind on the next guy and I’m not a guy who thinks he’d swing in that situation. I was just trying to throw a strike and he hit a home run.”
“I think I pitched pretty good after that. I wouldn’t say I was pitching bad before that because it was so quick. It’s tough to [give up] two runs with a guy like Verlander [starting]. After that, that’s all I could give up if I was going to keep us in the game.”
The right-hander, however, was able to bounce back. He retired the side in the next frame and scattered four more hits over his next five scoreless frames.
The only jam that Correia saw after the first came in the third inning. He allowed a one-out single to Austin Jackson, but he was caught trying to steal second. Michael McKenry made a perfect throw to second base to nail him for the second out of the inning. It marked the first caught stealing by the catchers in last 28 attempts. Berry drew a walk, and Miguel Cabrera followed with a single, but Correia escaped the jam as Prince Fielder grounded out to first.
“We were down in the bullpen a little bit,” Correia said. “I knew that I couldn’t go out there and throw two innings. You’re really not expecting to be down 2-0 after the first two hitters, but after that I was aggressive and just kind of made that adjustment.”
Overall, Correia allowed two runs on six hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out four batters. The four whiffs tied a season-high. After scuffling in the month of May (5.70 ERA over five outings), Correia has been much sharper in June. The righty has posted a 3.53 ERA over five starts (28 innings).
Verlander Tosses Complete Game
The last time the Pirates faced Justin Verlander, he tossed a one-hit shutout. The right-hander took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, with Josh Harrison breaking it up with a bloop single into shallow center field. And on Sunday, Verlander continued to show why he is a Cy Young Award Winner.
The Pirates didn’t have many opportunities to plate a run off Verlander. They connected for just two hits over the first six frames and had just one base runner advance into scoring position during that span.
The club was finally able to get the right-hander to make a mistake in the seventh. After Pedro Alvarez connected for a one-out single, Garrett Jones followed with a bomb to right-center field on a 1-1 hanging changeup. Jones’ ninth blast of the season tied the game up at 2.
“Just trying to be on time with the fastball and not miss good pitches to hit,” Jones said. “Verlander was throwing a lot of off-speed. I was geared up to hit the fastball and he hung a changeup and I was able to recognize it and stay through it and get the good part of the bat on it. That’s all I’m trying to do and build off that.”
“I got excited,” Hurdle said of Jones home run. “It was a nice swing. Left a changeup up. Garrett stayed on it and got through it. We played hard today. That’s a tough draw for anybody. I thought we battled. We pitched extremely well again today. First two batters, you’re 2-0 down. Correia stops them right there. We give up one more run. It’s a fastball over the plate that normally gets hit in the air, but he hits a ground ball through the right side. Well played weekend. That’s a good team over there. I know they haven’t found their rhythm yet, but I believe they have a good team.”
Right-hander Chris Resop allowed the Tigers to score the go-ahead run in his second inning of work. Berry drew his second free pass of the game and scored on a two-out RBI single to right field by Delmon Young.
Despite the 3-2 loss, the Pirates won the series, their 14th of the season. They remain one game out of first place in the National League central and are five games (38-33) over .500.
“We played great baseball,” Jones said of the series. “We didn’t win today, but we came out with the series. Battled against a tough pitcher today. Almost came away with the win and swept them, but nonetheless we came away with the series and that’s what we want to do.”
“Great weekend. Man, it was electric. Very rarely do I get to watch the game from inside,” said Hurdle, who was ejected for the second time this season. “But to see the TV’s panning the stands, the people behind the stands, the boats. Just the activity. Everybody out on the rotunda. The amount of Pirate garb and bling and the flags. Hoist the colors. Raise the Jolly Roger. It was really cool to have that…It was a big weekend in our season. It was a good weekend for our fan base as well.”
The Pirates finished Interleague play with a 10-8 record this season. Pittsburgh has struggled in Interleague play for years and Hurdle said it is finally something they can check off their to-do list.
“I think we can take something away from it because prior to last season our record was really backwards for whatever reason,” Hurdle said. “So there’s been an adjustment made. It was another one of those things on our to do list to change a mentality, to change a thought, the environment. We’ve been able to show up and match up much better the last two seasons in Interleague play.”
“You don’t get any trophies for that,” said Hurdle, whose club was the only National League Central team to finish with an above .500 record in Interleague. “But it was something that we needed to do to show improvement based on prior performance.”