Karstens an option just in case rotation slot opens
BRADENTON, Fla. -— Right-hander Jeff Karstens is not the favorite to win the No. 5 spot in the Pirates' starting rotation, but he still has a valuable role to fill.
"He's in the mix, but right now he's on the outside looking in," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He provides us a tremendous insurance policy if Scott Olsen's hamstring (injury) lingers and he can't start the season healthy or if Charlie Morton isn't ready to take that job."
Olsen has been out with a hamstring injury since last week. He did not throw during Tuesday's workouts and is not scheduled to pitch Wednesday.
Karstens will be treated as a starter, especially early in spring training, and will build up innings.
"We'll be putting (Karstens) out there a little more frequently so we can evaluate how he can help us," Huntington said. "Later, we can either push him deeper into games (as a starter) or get him more prepared to come out of the bullpen."
The issue with Karstens, 28, is durability.
"Sometimes, he got to the sixth or seventh inning and seemed to hit a wall," Huntington said. "Can he put up 180-200 innings (in a season)• That's a question we've got to answer."
Last season, Karstens went 3-10 with a 4.92 ERA. He pitched in 26 games (19 starts) and amassed a career-high 122 2⁄3 innings.
In the offseason, he avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $1.1 million contract.
By the numbers
Jeff Karstens' career stats in the majors:
2006 (Yankees): 3.80 ERA, 8 games, 6 starts, 42.2 innings pitched
2007 (Yankees): 11.05 ERA, 7 games, 3 starts, 14.2 innings pitched
2008 (Pirates): 4.03 ERA, 9 games, 9 starts, 51.1 innings pitched
2009 (Pirates): 5.42 ERA, 39 games, 13 starts, 108.0 innings pitched
2010 (Pirates): 4.92 ERA, 26 games, 19 starts, 122.2 innings pitched