With his second start in Altoona this season under his belt, Jeff Karstens said he feels ready to head west and make his fourth appearance of the year for the Pirates.
Karstens, who pitched for Altoona on May 21 while rehabbing a shoulder injury, was back in a Curve uniform Tuesday, this time coming back from a hip flexor. The right-hander was impressive in his 2012 encore performance at Peoples Natural Gas Field, throwing 78 pitches in seven innings and allowing only one run while striking out six in the Curve's 8-1 over New Britain.
"I'm ready to go back to Pittsburgh," Karstens said. "But you know, ultimately, that's not my decision, it never has been. I'm going to wait and see what they tell me [today] and go from there."
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
The Curve’s Quincy?Latimore makes a home-run saving catch in the fourth inning.
Karstens hammered the strike zone, as 59 of his 78 pitches were strikes. The only walk Karstens allowed came in the seventh inning on four pitches, and it led to the Rock Cats' only run.
Karstens was able to fool New Britain hitters with a changeup that was about 20 mph slower than his fastball, and Curve pitching coach Jeff Johnson said the pitcher was pretty much in control of everything he was doing.
"It was a clinic, in my opinion, on how he used his pitches and on how his command was on all of his pitches," Johnson said. "He looked very ready to go."
Tonight: New Britain at Altoona, 7 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve RHP Gerrit Cole (5-1, 2.55 at high-A Bradenton) vs. Rock Cats RHP Brett Jacobson (0-1, 5.34).
Covering the bases: Page B2
Karstens made three starts but was able to throw only 12 innings for the Pirates this season before injuring his shoulder on April 17 against the Diamondbacks. He had four minor league outings - including his start for the Curve in which he threw three scoreless innings - prior to hurting his hip.
The hip didn't seem to bother Karstens, and he added he didn't really feel signs of fatigue as the game wore on. Karstens, a nine-game winner in Pittsburgh last season, said he's "completely healthy now."
"I think just the main goal was to come out and come out of the game healthy," Karstens said. "My last start didn't go as well as I wanted it to. I had a little nagging injury, and it came up and bit me. But I was in a good place on the mound today. The goal was to come out healthy, and hopefully it showed them that I'm ready."
With Karstens breezing through New Britain's order, the Curve gave him plenty of run support as they had three-run innings in the second and third.
Altoona smacked 13 hits, with eight of its nine starters recording at least one. Brock Holt led the way with three RBIs in a 3-for-4 showing, and New Britain starter Logan Darnell (5-6) gave up six runs - four earned - and 10 hits in five innings.
It was the second straight game in which the Curve's offense had its way, as the team lit up Binghamton on Sunday for 15 runs on 20 hits. In their last two games, the Curve have scored 23 runs on 33 hits and hit a collective .446.
"[There's] some competition for ABs going on right now, and I think [hitting coach] Ryan Long has done a great job of getting guys to buy in and finally buying in," manager P.J. Forbes said. "And you just want to ride this as long as you can, and remember what you've been doing to be successful and go from there."
A major leaguer making a rehab start was not the only attraction at the ballpark Tuesday, as the Cowboy Monkeys (monkeys dressed as cowboys riding dogs) made their first appearance at PNG Field.
"I thought they were hilarious," Karstens said. "They caught me off guard when I was warming up, and I was like, I've got to get one of those as a pet or something."
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: RHP Jeff Karstens allowed only one run in seven innings and struck out six in a rehab start.
Key play: LF Quincy Latimore crushed a two-RBI triple off the wall in center field in the fifth inning to give the Curve an 8-0 lead.
Key stat: The Curve have scored 23 runs and have 33 hits in their past two games.
SUBHD: How they scored
Bottom 3rd: Welch singled, Chambers singled, both scored on Holt double (2-0); Cunningham double scored Holt (3-0).
Bottom 5th: Grossman singled, scored on Cunningham sacrifice fly (4-0); Durham doubled, Cabrera reached on Beresford error, both scored on Latimore triple (6-0).
Top 7th: Romero walked, scored on Bigley double (6-1).
Bottom 7th: Cunningham singled, scored on Cabrera single (7-1).
Bottom 8th: Farrell walked, scored on Holt sacrifice fly (8-1).