CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jeff Karstens saw his first game action of the spring Wednesday in a Minor League game against Phillies Triple-A players, and he might make his Grapefruit League debut as soon as Monday.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Karstens, who had been working his way back from biceps tendinitis, will definitely pitch two innings Monday, but it remains to be seen whether that will be in another Minor League outing or against the Red Sox at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
In fact, Hurdle said the Pirates are keeping both slots open until they make a decision.
"It's going to be one or the other," Hurdle said Thursday at Bright House Field.
Karstens is scheduled to throw a side session in the bullpen Saturday. He tossed two innings Wednesday on just 26 pitches, 15 of them for strikes. The Pirates don't need a fifth starter for another 25 days, and Hurdle said Wednesday that the club believes Karstens will be a part of its Opening Day rotation.
Making rotation bid, McPherson bounces back
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- In the latest turn of what he termed a "roller coaster of a spring so far," right-hander Kyle McPherson showed Thursday at Bright House Field why he's still in the mix for a spot in the Pirates' rotation.
Facing a Phillies lineup that included as many as six of their Opening Day starters, McPherson breezed through five scoreless innings, allowing only four hits with one strikeout. And as Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, the results were representative of the way he pitched.
"That was a nice five-inning snapshot of what you're looking for from him," Hurdle said.
That hadn't been the case this spring for McPherson, competing with left-hander Jeff Locke for the final spot in the rotation, as he'd allowed eight earned runs on nine hits and four walks in his previous 7 2/3 innings.
But he put it all together Thursday, inducing early contact, keeping the ball down in the zone and letting the Phillies serve up ground balls and catchable fly balls.
"Fortunately the early contact was in my favor today," McPherson said. "Balls on the ground and some fly balls that we could handle, and I was able to go deep enough into the ballgame to give the team a chance."
On top of that, McPherson blanked a lineup loaded with left-handed threats, including Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Domonic Brown, while staying within his prescribed 65-70 pitch count well enough to get through five innings. All that's left for McPherson to do, Hurdle said, is repeat Thursday's performance on a consistent basis.
As for that fifth-starter competition, McPherson said everything you'd expect him to -- that he's focusing on his work on a day-to-day basis rather than thinking about possibly landing a spot on the Opening Day roster. Locke, meanwhile, has given up six runs on 15 hits and six walks while striking out 10 in 13 1/3 innings over four starts.
As expected, Hurdle wouldn't tip his hand when asked if he's seen either pitcher create any separation.
"I wouldn't tell you if I did," the manager said with a grin. "You guys are watching the same games I am. You're seeing what I see."
On Thursday, the Pirates saw a "snapshot" of McPherson at his best, one they certainly wouldn't mind seeing more of this spring.
Jones returning to lineup for Friday's game
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Garrett Jones will be back on the field for the Pirates on Friday.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Phillies that Jones will play five innings at first base and get two or three at-bats Friday, when Pittsburgh travels to face Houston at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla. Jones has been sidelined since March 6 due to tightness on his left side.
Jones was scheduled to take live batting practice back at the Pirates' Spring Training complex on Thursday.
"Jones had a good day today," Hurdle said.
The first baseman went 3-for-14 in six Grapefruit League games before the injury. He posted a .274/.317/.516 batting line with 27 homers and 86 RBIs in 145 games last season.
Nutting honored for 'Let's Go Green' initiative
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pirates principal owner and chairman Bob Nutting will be honored Thursday night by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) for his role in the sports industry's work to adopt sustainable business practices.
According to a club release, Nutting will be recognized at the NRDC's Game Changer Award Gala for the Pirates' "Let's Go Bucs. Let's Go Green" initiative, which diverts more than 65 percent of PNC Park's waste material out of the waste stream, as well as the greening practices at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Ogden Newspapers publishing company owned by the Nutting family.
"It is an honor to be recognized by the NRDC and accept this award on behalf of those within the Pirates, Seven Springs and Ogden Newspapers organizations whose hard work makes our sustainability initiatives possible," Nutting said in a statement. "We can all make a difference in protecting our environment. The city of Pittsburgh and the Laurel Highlands region is surrounded by such natural beauty. We are very fortunate to have an opportunity to live in, and help protect, it for future generations."
Four professional sports commissioners, including Major League Baseball's Bud Selig, will co-chair the event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. Fellow honorees include New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, New York Giants co-owners Steve Tisch and John Mara, and Scott Jenkins, the Mariners' vice president of ballpark operations and chair of the Green Sports Alliance.
"Bob is one of the pioneers in the professional sports greening movement that has made sustainability the rule rather than the exception," NRDC president Frances Beinecke said in a statement. "Through his dedication and actions, Bob and the Pirates are on the forefront in leading a cultural shift toward environmental responsibility in sports."
• Infielder Brandon Inge played the field for the second time this spring Thursday, getting the start at third base against the Phillies at Bright House Field. Inge made his first start there Sunday and didn't get a ball hit his way in five full innings, but that wasn't the case Thursday, when Inge recorded two putouts and three assists.
Inge twice waded into foul territory to snag fly-ball outs that drifted toward the stands. He made another sharp play in the second inning -- a diving stop toward the left-field line to prevent an extra-base hit -- though it didn't result in an out because of a low throw and bobbled reception.
• Lefty Mike Zagurski's perfect Grapefruit League work came to an end Thursday, when he gave up the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, a solo homer by Phillies third baseman Pete Orr.
Zagurski had only given up one hit this spring, and that was in a game against Spain's World Baseball Classic club that didn't count toward his Grapefruit League numbers. Otherwise, he had given up no hits or walks while striking out seven in four innings.
• Lefty Andy Oliver gave up the Pirates' first run, yielding a leadoff walk to Michael Young, a single to Utley and a sacrifice fly to Howard in the sixth. Hurdle has been pleased this spring with how his pitchers have kept their walks down, noting that the only hurlers giving up too many walks are those who have a history of doing so. Oliver would fall under that category, as he's averaged five walks per nine innings in his three-year Minor League career.
"The game will tell you," Hurdle said. "You walk leadoff hitters, they score 70 percent of the time."
• Right-hander Ryan Reid extended his scoreless streak to five innings, allowing one hit but no runs in the seventh. In five Grapefruit League appearances, he has allowed only two hits. Signed to a Minor League deal, Reid went 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 46 appearances last year for the Rays' Triple-A affiliate in Durham.