"One of the things about D.J. is kind of the double-edged sword," Russell said. "He's very valuable, what he does in the bullpen for us. He really does a great job. We can pitch him in so many different kinds of situations, whether it's a close game or we need big outs or we need him to cover two or three innings in a close game or keep us in a game. So the value he has for us in the bullpen is great, but in doing that, he has been stretched out a little bit."
That leaves the question of whether the 33-year-old Carrasco, who has started 23 games in his six-year career, can make a spot start for the Pirates at some point this season.
"If the need arose that we needed a spot start, that we didn't have any bodies lined up in Triple-A that we felt could come up and make that start, then yeah, absolutely he'd be a candidate," Russell said. "He's been a candidate a couple times in the past and [it] just didn't really work out. But he has done it before. I know talking to him, he loves and would like the opportunity to start, but we'll continue to weigh it. When that opportunity comes up again, we'll discuss our options and I'm sure his name will be one of them."
Carrasco has allowed 47 hits over 53 2/3 innings (43 appearances) this season, striking out 44 and walking 22. He entered Saturday's game against the Padres tied with All-Star Evan Meek for the most innings pitched by a Pirates reliever this season. Carrasco's ERA stands at 3.86 after he escaped a seventh-inning, bases-loaded, no-out jam on Friday by inducing three consecutive outs. (One was a sacrifice fly, with the run charged to Brendan Donnelly.)
Making four appearances in eight games since the All-Star break, Carrasco has struck out eight batters in eight innings, allowing four runs on four hits.
In 20 starts with the Royals in 2005, Carrasco went 6-8 with a 4.79 ERA.
"I've asked about it; I'd hope it'd be more than a spot start," Carrasco said. "I'm talking about being able to be a starter and not just spot start. I've done it before. I think I could really help this team out if that opportunity is given to me. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm right, but I think I can contribute in a very valuable way, being able to start and hopefully give some quality efficient innings out there."