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Karstens' 2013 role still to be determined

| Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, 8:44 p.m.
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Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens is 5-4 with a 3.89 ERA this season. Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

General manager Neal Huntington said “it's a bit early” for him to reveal what role — if any — right-hander Jeff Karstens will have with the Pirates in 2013. But Huntington did not seem enthused when discussing whether Karstens could claim a spot in next year's starting rotation, a possible indication Karstens is a non-tender candidate this offseason.

This season, Karstens missed time due to shoulder inflammation, a sore groin and a hip pointer. In previous years, he's battled arm fatigue, hamstring strains and lower back and shoulder problems.

“Jeff gives you everything he has every time he gets the ball,” Huntington said. “We'd love to have a thousand (players) with his mentality because he's doing everything he can to get the most out of his abilities. Unfortunately, at times, his body lets him down, and it has been various body parts.”

Karstens has one year of arbitration eligibility left and figures to make at least $4 million next summer. Last winter, he signed for $3.1 million to avoid arbitration.

“As we do with every player in the organization, we'll do a thorough analysis (of Karstens) and explore the fit on the team going forward, how he fits in the big picture,” Huntington said.

Karstens has not started a game since Aug. 31, when he was removed after one inning due to the hip flexor injury. Even after Karstens was cleared to resume pitching, management opted to keep rookies Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson in the rotation.

Karstens' past three outings were out of the bullpen, and he has been scored upon in each, allowing four earned runs in 6 13 innings. In 15 starts, he went 5-4 with a 3.89 ERA.

• Jordy Mercer declined management's request that he play winter ball. Mercer's wife gave birth in mid-August, and he is eager to spend time with her and their son in the offseason. “If we didn't have the baby, I would definitely go,” Mercer said. Brock Holt was not approached about playing winter ball. “The biggest thing I need at this point is rest,” said Holt, who's played in a career-high 149 games in the minors and majors this year. Josh Harrison and Alex Presley have not yet decided whether they will play this winter or work out on their own.

• Going into the game Monday, the Pirates ranked eighth in the NL with a 3.90 ERA. The team has not finished a season with a ERA below 4.00 since 1998, when it was 3.91. The Pirates' haven't had an ERA lower than 3.90 since 1992, when it was 3.35.

— Rob Biertempfel

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