Pirates notebook: Karstens looks to return to rotation

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 6:34 p.m.

To stabilize their starting rotation, the Pirates will bring back right-hander Jeff Karstens on a one-year contract.

The deal, which is pending completion of a physical, is worth about $2.5 million.

Karstens, 30, became a free agent after being non-tendered by the Pirates in November. He made $3.1 million last season and likely would've gotten about $4 million this year if he had gone through arbitration.

The Pirates were ready to give free-agent lefty Francisco Liriano a two-year, $12.75 million contract to fill Karstens' rotation spot, but the deal fell apart after Liriano injured his right arm in late December.

Karstens was in the rotation on Opening Day last season but made just 15 starts because of shoulder and hip injuries. In 19 outings, he went 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.147 WHIP.

In 2011, Karstens made a career-high 26 starts. He went 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA. Before that, he was used mostly as a long reliever and spot starter.

The rotation this season will consist of veterans A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, Karstens and James McDonald. The Pirates plan to have newcomers Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson compete for the final spot during spring training.

Right-hander Charlie Morton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, might be able to rejoin the team by midseason.

McCutchen opts out of playing in WBC

Center fielder Andrew McCutchen has decided not to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

McCutchen was invited to participate in the 16-team tournament, which will be March 2-19. The preliminary 28-man rosters will be revealed Thursday.

Pool D, consisting of the United States, Canada, Italy and Mexico, will play its opening round March 8-10 at Chase Field in Phoenix. Two teams from Pool D will advance to the second round, March 12-16 at Marlins Park in Miami.

Outfielders Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers), Shane Victorino (Boston Red Sox) and Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles) have agreed to play for the U.S., which will be managed by Joe Torre.

Though McCutchen will remain in Pirates' spring training camp in Bradenton, Fla., at least two of his teammates — reliever Jason Grilli and catcher Russell Martin — will head to Phoenix for the WBC. Grilli will play for Italy, and Martin will play for Canada.

Right-hander Chris Leroux also is expected to accept an invitation from Canada after being told he could be used as a starter. Leroux has been penciled into the Pirates' bullpen plans but would prefer a starter's role.

Outfielder Starling Marte has been asked to play for the Dominican Republic. Neither Marte nor the Pirates have indicated whether he will accept the bid.

The Dominican Republic team also was interested in having Pedro Alvarez on its roster, but he is expected to decline and stay in camp with the Pirates.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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