CLEVELAND -- Changes, both short-term and long-term, could be coming to the Pirates, but not in the area that jumps out as the one needing the most help. Any offensive upgrade will have to come with the improved production of those already in-house.
On the other hand, the imminent conclusion of two pitchers' rehabs will trigger a minor shakeup of the staff.
According to manager Clint Hurdle, Chris Leroux could be two weeks away from returning from the strained pectoral muscle that has had him on the 60-day disabled list since April 3.
Jeff Karstens' return is penciled in for July 1. The right-hander's setback from a hip flexor tweak is considered minor enough that he is expected to make 80 pitches when he picks up his rehab assignment with Triple-A Altoona on Tuesday. Karstens' has been on the disabled list since mid-April with shoulder inflammation.
"It's not set that it'll be one-and-done. He might need two [rehab starts]," Hurdle said.
Brad Lincoln gets one more shot at earning rotation tenure with Sunday's start in Cleveland, following two starts in which he lasted a total of 8 1/3 innings and gave up nine runs and 15 hits. If Lincoln falters -- and with Karstens possibly still two weeks away -- interim help would have to come from elsewhere.
Hurdle felt it was too premature to speculate on Leroux's possible role when he is able to rejoin the bullpen near the end of the month.
"There are so many variables, with that 12-, 13-day window," the manager said. "How healthy are we? How many guys have options?"
Leroux is out of options, one reason the 28-year-old right-hander has a reserved seat, in addition to his 2011 effectiveness (2.88 ERA in 23 appearances). Those on the current staff with remaining options are Jared Hughes and Lincoln.