Pirates notebook: Bucs shut down injured Karstens

Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens throws live batting practice at minor league camp Friday, March 8, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens throws live batting practice at minor league camp Friday, March 8, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Travis Sawchik
| Friday, May 24, 2013, 8:06 p.m.

MILWAUKEE — Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens felt pain in his right shoulder while throwing Friday and has been shut down, according to the team.

Karstens will undergo an evaluation of his shoulder next week in Pittsburgh. He was rehabbing with Triple-A Indianapolis.

Karstens, who started 15 games for the Pirates last season while posting a 3.97 ERA, hasn't pitched with the big league club this season, having dealt with shoulder inflammation this spring.

The 30-year-old made a rehab start with Double-A Altoona on Saturday, allowing two runs over four innings.

Last week, Karstens said he was unsure if the club planned to use him as a starter or reliever this season if he returned to full health.

The Pirates' starting rotation is becoming crowded as its starting five has been effective, and Charlie Morton and James McDonald, who will pitch Monday for Altoona, are returning from shoulder injuries.

McCutchen's K rate plunging

Pirates star Andrew McCutchen has not had an electric stretch this year like he enjoyed at times last season, but he might be becoming a better pure hitter.

More than a quarter of the way through this season, McCutchen has cut his strikeout rate 43 percent — from 19.6 percent last year to 11.1 percent this year. His career rate is 17 percent. If the results catch up with the improved process and if he combines an improved contact rate with last season's punch, he could reach another level of production.

And McCutchen might be in the early stages of a breakout: He has produced five multi-hit games in his past six entering Friday. He entered the series against the Brewers batting .291.

“I was just going over the walk-strikeout splits for all the players,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “(McCutchen) is in a very good place compared to where he's been in the past. I just think it's experience, confidence, good judgment. How do you get good judgment? Through experience. How do you get experience? Through bad judgment.”

McCutchen said he's using the same approach he has always used: trusting his hands and trying to square up pitches. But he is getting different results. And he's still doing remarkable things like lining a 98 mph Jeff Samardzija fastball off the right-field wall Wednesday at PNC Park.

Alvarez sits vs. another righty

Pedro Alvarez was out of the lineup against Brewers righty Marco Estrada on Friday. The third baseman is hitting .167 in 18 career at-bats against Estrada.

It is the second time this season Alvarez has been benched against a right-handed pitcher.

He was not in the lineup against Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo on May 15. Prior to that, the last time the lefty slugger sat against a right-handed pitcher was June 5 last season against Cincinnati's Homer Bailey.

Surplus to sell?

The Pirates' bullpen has been the strength of the team, and the depth extends to Triple-A, where prospects Vic Black (33 strikeouts in 24 innings) and Mike Zagurski (37 strikeouts, 20 23 innings) continue to miss bats. Hurdle indicated the Pirates have enough depth to potentially trade a reliever.

“You would think from an industry standpoint that there are people with some holes that might be looking,” Hurdle said. “We are creating depth, we are creating interest, as we move into the season.”

Standing tall

Pirates' officials are excited about 6-foot-7 right-hander Tyler Glasnow and for good reason. Glasnow struck out a career-high 12 batters Thursday for Low-A West Virginia, bringing his season strikeout total to 62 in 39 innings. Glasnow ranks 10th in the South Atlantic League in ERA (2.31) and strikeouts and first in opponent batting average (.122).

“He's a young man finding his way, making pitches,” Hurdle said. “We like him.”

Glasnow, a fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft, attended Hart (Calif.) High, which also has produced big leaguers Bob Walk, James Shields, Trevor Bauer and Todd Zeile.

Special delivery

Morton's wife, Cindy, gave birth to a son, Charles Alfred Morton V, on Thursday morning in Pittsburgh. Morton wanted to throw his side session Thursday, but it was scratched.

“Charlie was funny. He is very analytical. He said (Wednesday) ‘Well, I need to stay on schedule and my bullpen is (Thursday),' ” Hurdle said. “I said ‘Your wife is schedule to have a C-section in the morning, right?' He said ‘Yeah, but I really think I'll be able to get in there and throw the pen.' I said ‘Really?' ”

Morton phoned Thursday morning to call off his bullpen. The right-hander is scheduled to throw a 90-pitch rehab outing Monday.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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