Karstens' productive session has Bucs pleased

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jeff Karstens took a shot at the perception that he is likely to open the regular season on the disabled list. The Pirates right-hander actually took 30 shots at that -- the 30 pitches he threw in facing his spring's first batters in a Tuesday morning workout at Pirate City.

The two-inning exercise -- first straight batting practice, second simulated game -- was a significant step away from the right biceps tendinitis that derailed his training.

"The second inning was better -- he settled in and just threw strikes," said pitching coach Ray Searage, who made the commute from McKechnie Field to oversee Karstens' drill. "The first inning, he was jumpy; the competitiveness came out in him, and he was trying to make perfect pitches."

"I felt good in the first, too, but was just a little too amped up. It was great to finally face some batters," said Karstens.

Karstens threw to catcher Miguel Perez, with Minor Leaguers Barrett Barnes and Jeremy Farrell taking turns facing him in the batting cage.

Karstens won't throw for two days, then he'll repeat the same drill on Friday. On that occasion, according to Searage, the right-hander will pitch a more realistic simulated inning, without the cage around batters or the protective L-screen in front of the mound.

Karstens remained optimistic about being ready for the start of the season. With an off-day following the April 1 opener and A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald penciled into the top of the rotation, ideally, Karstens' season would not start until April 5, still 4 1/2 weeks away.

Still, manager Clint Hurdle kept that possibility open-ended.

"Jeff had a good day today," Hurdle said. "We'll evaluate him more after his next time out, and after that, we can map out a competitive schedule for him."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.