Pirates Notebook: Jeff Karstens Talks Rehab, Role With Team

Pitcher Jeff Karstens threw a bullpen session Tuesday afternoon in his continued rehabilitation back to the Major Leagues. Karstens is scheduled to make another rehab start Thursday or Friday.

Jeff Karstens pitching
Jeff Karstens has made one rehab start in Bradenton and one in Altoona.

In his last start Saturday for Altoona, Karstens gave up two hits and two walks for two unearned runs in the first innings, then settled in to pitch three scoreless frames. He had previously thrown 42 pitches in three innings for Bradenton, and made 62 pitches for the Curve.

“In both my rehab starts, I wish I could just start in the second inning,” Karstens said Sunday. “As the game went on, pitches started to get a little crisper, location got better… the last three were really good.”

Karstens mentioned Sunday he felt some soreness, but actually called it a “good sign” following throwing the most pitches he had made in a while. He gave a thumbs-up when I asked how Tuesday’s bullpen session went.

The question remains, with all five Pirates starters currently maintaining a 3.25 ERA or lower, where will Karstens fit in to the pitching staff?

“If you have a quarter, you can probably flip it, and then we’ll figure it out,” Karstens joked.

If Karstens pitches Friday, my guess is it would be in Altoona, who will be playing at home. He doesn’t know how many rehab more starts he has to pitch, but a return in early June is still on the table.

Charlie Morton is on the mound for the Altoona Curve on Tuesday night after throwing 61 pitches in four innings last week.

Welcome Back, Cutch

Andrew McCutchen is back in center field and the lineup’s No. 3 spot Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs. Manager Clint Hurdle said McCutchen went into the training room, worked out a little bit and felt good to go. Hurdle noted that it felt similar to a knee injury McCutchen had suffered playing football as a high school sophomore and had to undergo surgery.

“That heightened his awareness. He wanted to make sure nothing structurally was out of place,” Hurdle said. But after the MRI came back with no structural damage, “He felt much better.”

McCutchen said in the clubhouse that he was feeling fine, and neither he nor Hurdle knows exactly how the soreness came about.

His being scratched from the Sunday lineup meant Starling Marte’s off day had to be moved to Tuesday. It has become a common move for Hurdle to bench a regular starter on either side of a day off a scheduled off-day to give the player 48 hours to re-charge, a move he learned from Cardinals Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog pulling it on an aging Ozzie Smith.

“They know going in that they’re off,” Hurdle said. “There’s a big advantage to that from a player’s perspective… Going home, laying your head down, hitting the pillow knowing you’re not starting tomorrow… really just un-plug.”

Marte is still available to pinch-hit if needed, though Hurdle “prefers” not to use him.

Snider Out, Sanchez In

It is peculiar that left-handed-hitting Travis Snider finds himself on the bench while right-handed Gaby Sanchez starts at first base Tuesday against right-handed starting pitcher Matt Garza. Hurdle’s response…

“I want to continue to push Sanchez and Jones when I can. It’s not that Snider doesn’t have numbers,” Hurdle said.

The numbers say Snider (who usually hits righties better than Sanchez) is 1-for-9 in his career against Garza, while Sanchez is 4-for-11. I still maintain that such small sample sizes are a silly way of determining a lineup. To Hurdle’s credit, he is not only looking at the results of batters vs. pitchers, but also how hard they hit the ball or how the hits came about. He has also mentioned in the past that management will use results against comparable pitchers, along with the ol’ gut feeling, to make such decisions.

I disagree with the result, but there is a method to the madness.

Bonus Round!

  • The Pirates will be wearing Penguins jerseys while traveling to Milwaukee and Detroit on their upcoming road trip (not during games of course), in support of the hockey team.“It’s hard to beat playoff hockey,” Hurdle said. “The last few nights, I’ve kind of stayed up much later than I anticipated, watching games. It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year.”
  • Reliever Jared Hughes will return to Triple-A after Jose Contreras’ reinstatement from the bereavement list. He could be seen packing his bags in the Pirates clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.
  • Garrett Jones and Travis Snider have been instructed about bunting down the third-base line if the Chicago Cubs shift their infield to the right this week. The decision to shift likely comes from President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. The Cubs’ shifting on Jones in the Opening Series inspired my treatise on the subject.
  • Matt Bandi notes that Tuesday starter Wandy Rodriguez actually has the highest ERA (3.25) of any current starter in the Pirates rotation. Rodriguez has maintained a minuscule 1.35 ERA and .165 batting average against in four home starts.


Chicago Cubs (18-25, 9.5 games back in NL Central)

  1. CF Julio Borbon (.261 average)
  2. SS Starlin Castro (.273)
  3. 1B Anthony Rizzo (.275, 10 homers)
  4. LF Alfonso Soriano (.265)
  5. RF Scott Hariston (.122)
  6. C Welington Castillo (.287)
  7. 3B Cody Ranson (.325)
  8. 2B Darwin Barney (.192)
  9. RHP Matt Garza (2013 debut)

Pittsburgh Pirates (26-18, 2 games back in NL Central)

  1. LF Jose Tabata (.280 average)
  2. 2B Neil Walker (.236)
  3. CF Andrew McCutchen (.281, 6 homers)
  4. RF Garrett Jones (.281)
  5. C Russell Martin (.276, 6 homers)
  6. 3B Pedro Alvarez (.201, 8 homers)
  7. 1B Gaby Sanchez (.253)
  8. SS Clint Barmes (.223)
  9. LHP Wandy Rodriguez (4-2, 3.25)
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