Karstens pleased with progress from tendinitis

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jeff Karstens made 34 pitches in a two-inning session Friday afternoon at Pirate City -- the second frame without a protective L-screen in front of him on the mound -- and was pleased with how he felt, especially given that it was his second simulated turn in four days.

"Absolutely, that was significant for me," Karstens said. "I was able to make adjustments in the second inning, mixing in more breaking pitches. And it was great to pitch without the screen. That really got the competitive juices flowing."

The plan is for Karstens to again lay low for a couple of days, then throw a bullpen session. The next step after that would be his Grapefruit League debut.

Karstens has been held back by a mild case of biceps tendinitis, with his inclusion in the season-opening rotation still in jeopardy. Even if he progresses without any setbacks, that first exhibition outing would not come earlier than March 14, only three weeks before the Bucs will need a No. 4 starter.

Karstens would only be beginning to stretch out his arm, of course. Pittsburgh's other starters are already at the four-inning mark.

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.