PITTSBURGH -- Six days after pulling up lame after delivering a pitch and strolling gingerly from the PNC Park mound to the dugout, Jeff Karstens will be taking his regular pitching turn on Friday against the Brewers at Miller Park.All his medical tests since being forced from Saturday's game by a strain in his left-groin area have been clean, and Karstens' regular between-starts routine -- which included a bullpen session on Tuesday -- has gone smoothly. "Relieved? Yes, but I still don't know," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's trying to be as up front with us as he can be, and is doing what he needs to get ready to start. We'll see where that takes us." Karstens will have a rematch with the Milwaukee club he had blanked for seven innings on Saturday before the forced exit. It sounds as though Hurdle will overreact on the side of caution and have someone, most likely Kevin Correia, on early standby in the bullpen for Karstens' start. "You can't recreate game adrenaline and the game experience," Hurdle said. "[Karstens] can do things and run around on the field and throw a bullpen and have his activity level monitored. ... But you can't know until he gets out on the mound. So we'll wait and see." A.J. Burnett and James McDonald are due to follow Karstens to the hill for the final two games of the Pirates' last 2012 visit to Milwaukee.
Hurdle wowed by Alvarez's power display
PITTSBURGH -- With his two-homer game on Tuesday, Pedro Alvarez reached five multi-homer games for his career, tying Aramis Ramirez and Richie Hebner for the Pirates' club record for third basemen.Alvarez did so in his 286th career game, another "A-ha!" moment in his season that has also had plenty of "Oh-oh" pauses. There was something extraordinary about this most recent double-salvo, packaged in a four-hit game -- a career second -- that sparked the Bucs to a 9-0 victory over the Cardinals. This time, it wasn't "what" as much as "where." Alvarez's first shot off a down-and-away Jake Westbrook pitch left PNC Park at its deepest point, the North Side Notch in left-center, above the 410-foot mark. "We've only seen three left-handed hitters put a ball out to the left of the Notch, and now he's one of them," noted Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "To take a pitch in that spot and hit it where he did, that's special. But the second ..." Alvarez sent that, off right-handed reliever Brandon Dickson in the sixth inning, 469 feet to straightaway center. The longest home run out of PNC Park by a Pirates player also sent Dickson all the way to Memphis; he was optioned to Triple-A by the Cardinals prior to Wednesday night's game. "I thought that was going to hit the [Roberto Clemente] Bridge," Hurdle said. After Alvarez returned to the dugout, the crowd cheered for him to come back out and take a bow. "When fans ask for you, it's a big honor for me," Alvarez said. "That was the first time that happened to me, and it was a big thrill and honor. So ... thanks."
Harrison on collision: 'No other place to go'
PITTSBURGH -- He is not the best hitter, or the one with the most power, or the best-known.But Josh Harrison has become the symbol of the Pirates' swashbuckling style. If there is a face of the Bad News Bucs, it belongs to Harrison following his full-contact crash Tuesday night into Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. The day after that second-inning play in the Pirates' 9-0 victory, Harrison was a bit sheepish about the notoriety it has brought him, saying, "I just want to move on from it." Overnight, he had finally seen replays of the collision, which only confirmed to him that "Molina had the plate covered; I really had no other place to go." The legitimacy of the hard-nosed play was endorsed by none other than Molina himself, who also had had a chance to revisit the play on video. "Clean play," said Molina, who hoped to be over strains to his left shoulder, neck and back in time to rejoin the Cardinals' lineup either Thursday or Friday. "That's part of baseball. He did what he had to do, and I did what I had to do. It sucks because you don't want anybody to get hurt. This time, it was me to get hurt. But it was a clean play." Harrison also revealed having flashbacks to a comparable play in the few instants he had between third and home. As he rounded third and tried to score on Jose Tabata's single to Carlos Beltran, he thought back to July 4, 2011, when he likewise tried to score from second on a single by Alex Presley to Houston right fielder Hunter Pence. Astros catcher Carlos Corporan had the plate similarly blocked, and Harrison slid into him feet-first. Corporan caved in atop him, leaving him dazed, bloody-nosed and sore. "And I knew I didn't want the same thing to happen again," Harrison said of Tuesday's play, "so I had to go in full-body."
"Ever since we're little kids, we want to be big leaguers. So of course I want to be here. I'll miss not being there and helping them -- but this is the place I want to be."
-- Infielder Chase d'Arnaud, whose Monday promotion to the Pirates means he might have to miss the International League playoffs his play had helped Triple-A Indianapolis reach.
Entering Wednesday night's game, Pedro Alvarez's average (.247) was its highest since .253 on May 5 -- the day he earned a promotion into the Pirates' cleanup spot. Alvarez hit .140 in 24 games in that spot, ending the experiment. Neil Walker (lower-back tightness) spent more time at the park than he had since developing the issue on Monday, but spent most of the day just getting treatment. He hasn't picked up a bat since pregame stuff on Monday.
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.