Karstens to 'pen for short term; J-Mac in spotlight

Karstens to 'pen for short term; J-Mac in spotlight

Karstens to 'pen for short term; J-Mac in spotlight
CINCINNATI -- Jeff Karstens is ready to resume pitching after working his way back from a strained right hip flexor -- but he will not immediately rejoin the rotation.

Rather, Karstens is due to be in the Wrigley Field bullpen for the upcoming four-game series against the Cubs, while Kevin Correia makes his next start in turn.

As manager Clint Hurdle laid out his short-term pitching plans prior to Wednesday night's game here, of far greater interest was the strong implication that James McDonald would be pitching for his spot in the rotation when he starts Friday's series opener in Chicago.

In confirming the rotation for the rest of that set -- following McDonald will be Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Locke and Correia -- Hurdle added, "That will set up Wandy to pitch the third game against the Brewers at home."

What about the first two against Milwaukee, on Tuesday and Wednesday? Leaving those spots unspoken probably was not an oversight on the manager's part. A.J. Burnett, who started Wednesday, would be in line to start one of them -- unless the staff decided to move him up to start the Monday finale against the Cubs on regular four days' rest.

That would push Correia back for the Tuesday start in PNC Park.

McDonald's second-half struggles have been well-documented, as he has posted a 6.91 ERA while the Pirates have lost eight of his 11 starts since the All-Star break. However, a possibly better indication of the lanky right-hander's regression is that he has reached eight strikeouts only once in his last 17 starts. Earlier this season, he punched out eight-plus in six straight outings.

As noteworthy, Hurdle indicated being eager to give rookie Kyle McPherson a start.

"If the opportunity presents itself," Hurdle said, "I'd like to give the ball for a start to McPherson."