Pirates Notebook: Karstens Has Enough Time to be Ready For the Season

Jeff Karstens has enough time to be ready for the regular season.
Jeff Karstens has enough time to be ready for the regular season.

Jeff Karstens threw two innings at Pirate City this afternoon, going up against the Triple-A squad. After the start, Karstens mentioned how he’s 1-2 outings behind everyone else in camp. The right-hander will extend to three innings the next time out, and keep working his inning count up. However, most of the pitchers in camp are currently at 4-5 innings per outing by this point. So does Karstens have enough time to be ready for Opening Day? I asked Clint Hurdle if the Pirates felt the right-hander could be ready.

“We do as of right now,” Hurdle said. “As we’ve mapped it out we probably couldn’t have waited much longer. He was very comfortable with the outing today. Felt very good after. Threw a volume of pitches, threw all of his pitches, worked on the running game, pitched in, spun the ball. All of it worked very well. So we’ll get him in play and see what it takes, but we do have enough time for him to be sharp once we open up the season.”

Karstens threw two shutout innings today, giving up one hit. The base runner was erased with a caught stealing. Karstens also had a strikeout on a swinging fastball, after starting the hitter off with two straight curveballs. For more details on the start, check out my article from the outing.


After a Rough First Inning, McDonald Settles Down

James McDonald went 5.1 innings today, giving up three runs on five hits, with two walks and five strikeouts. The right-hander ran into some problems in the first inning, but settled down after that. Three of the five hits allowed came in the first inning, and all three were grounders that either found holes or went for infield hits.

“After the lead off walk it was ground balls here and there. It could go either way,” McDonald said of the first inning. “It wasn’t like I was just getting hit around. So after that [I] settled down. Got back to quick pitches, quick innings, first pitch swings, two pitch swings, ball in play. Felt pretty decent.”

The right-hander had five strikeouts, including two in the fifth inning. That was a result of mixing in his curveball more in the later innings.

“Early I wasn’t throwing a lot of breaking pitches. I was going at them with my fastball, moving my fastball around,” McDonald said. “Towards the end, the fourth and fifth inning, I started mixing in a lot more breaking balls. It was pretty good. When I needed a punch out with it, I didn’t try to over-throw it.”

Clint Hurdle said that the goal today was to get McDonald to around 80 pitches. He came out for the sixth inning, got his fifth strikeout of the day to lead things off, then was pulled after giving up a line drive single.

“Changeup came into play, curveball came into play,” Hurdle said. “He had a really good fastball he beat some people with. So I thought it was a very good outing.”

The Pirates won today in comeback fashion. They were tied 1-1 when McDonald left the game, and the runner McDonald left on base eventually scored. They entered the eighth inning down 4-1, and scored one run to start the comeback. Two runs in the bottom of the ninth sent the game to extra innings. That’s when Carlos Paulino ended it with a hit to center field, scoring Tony Sanchez from second.


Reactions to Starling Marte

One of the keys to the Pirates having success in 2013 could be Starling Marte. He’s a five tool outfielder who could be an above average player or better. Today two people in Pirates camp were praising Marte. The first was Clint Hurdle, in response to Marte’s infield single this afternoon.

“One little bobble and he’s going to be safe,” Hurdle said. “He’s got the best poster child running down to first base in Andrew McCutchen. Nobody gets down to first base as good and consistent as Andrew McCutchen. He’s got a guy that does it. We’ve got two guys in the lineup now that can get down that line as good as anybody in the game. He’s got barrel. It plays. It’s one of the questions I was asked. We’re not trying to shrink his swing. Shrinking the zone might be something he’s going to work on, but not shrinking the swing. The swing plays. It’s powerful line to line.”

The second person was Russell Martin. When asked if anyone was standing out in camp, the first player Martin mentioned was Marte.

“He’s athletic,” Martin said. “Just a natural athlete. I still feel like he’s really raw, but it just looks like he’s out there playing the game. He’s not over-thinking anything. He just goes about his business the way it should be done. He plays hard.”

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One nice thing about Marte is that he can get on base without crushing the ball, he can bunt and he can beat out bleeders, so I don’t think he should go through a lot of prolonged slumps. He runs the bases much like D’Arnaud, he is fearless. He will make mistakes, he will have his problems, but he is a guy that management has to keep in the lineup.


McDonald throwing the changeup, huh? Please tell me he’s throwing the slider too. Most of his success in the first half last year came from increasing his reliance on the slider at the expense of the changeup (which he often can’t command).

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