Huntington: Jeff Karstens' Durability A Concern

BRADENTON FL - FEBRUARY 20: Pitcher Jeff Karstens #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 20 2011 in Bradenton Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

-P- Some interesting comments from Neal Huntington regarding Jeff Karstens:

"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."

No, you really don't have to answer that question. Karstens did have a problem getting deep into games last year. He tended to fall apart after 50 pitches, as hitters slugged .600 against him from pitches 51-75. They also batted .370/.416/.710 when they faced him for the third time in a game. The patterns weren't all that similar in 2008 or 2009, however.

I don't have any problem with Karstens as a long reliever, or the guy you stick in there when things get really hopeless - he's a better option than, say, Hayden Penn or Ryan Vogelsong were. But durability really isn't the key question here. It doesn't really matter whether he can get through six innings or not. He shouldn't be starting, since there just isn't any upside. Charlie Morton and Brad Lincoln have upside. Even with Scott Olsen, if you're on the right mixture of psychedelic drugs, you can kind of imagine how he might return to his 2006 form. With Karstens, no. Or, to put it another way, I would rather run the risk of Morton completely blowing a game and having Karstens clean it up than to just let Karstens start the game in the first place.

Also, regarding Karstens' ability to pitch 180-200 innings in a season, there's also the fact that there are only about 1,450 innings per year to distribute to a team's pitching staff. Giving Karstens 200 of them would be a little like consuming 2,000 calories a day, 500 of which come from soda. Yes, you'd survive, but you probably wouldn't feel especially good, so if there's any nutritious food around at all, you should probably eat that instead. 

Anyway, Huntington also says Karstens is "on the outside looking in," so it could take continued hamstring issues from Olsen and Morton doing whatever it is Morton does for Karstens to get a clear shot. I'm relatively confident in Karstens as a long reliever, and hopefully they just leave it at that.

-P- Tony Sanchez talks about pretty much the only upside of having multiple Pirates prospects get injured at the same time:

Sanchez was kept sane [during his injury last year] only by the company of his roommate Brock Holt, who had sustained a season-ending knee injury just a few weeks earlier.

"If I didn't have Brock, I would have gone crazy," Sanchez said. "If he didn't have me, he probably would have gone crazy. We played a lot of video games. I carried a lot of bags for him, and I watched him eat a lot of meals.

"We had our naps scheduled. We had our shows scheduled. We had our video games scheduled. We had a lot of time."

Sanchez and Holt will hopefully both be at Altoona this year, where they'll have baseball to keep them busy.

-P- The Pirates (or at least half of them - the other half will be playing the Rays) will face pitchers Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman when they play the Orioles on Monday. The Bucs play an exhibition against Manatee on Friday, then face the Rays on Saturday and Sunday before their Rays/Orioles split-squad day on Monday. All the games are at 1:05, except the Manatee exhibition, which is at 12:05.

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