CHICAGO -- With Triple-A Indianapolis in the playoff hunt and four games remaining, it appears as if the Pirates will hold off on making most of their other September callups until next week. To this point, only catcher Jason Jaramillo and pitcher Brian Burres have been added.
One of the more intriguing decisions coming is whether third baseman Pedro Alvarez will be among those arriving in Pittsburgh during the upcoming homestand. In 14 games since being sent down, Alvarez is batting just .154 with two doubles and two homers. He has struck out 20 times in 52 at-bats.
Alvarez will finish the season in Indianapolis, and manager Clint Hurdle did note that Alvarez would benefit from continuing to get at-bats. The organization is pushing Alvarez to play winter ball during the offseason.
There could also be some at-bats available with the Pirates, too, over the final three weeks, though Hurdle emphasized that if Alvarez returns, he would not jump back into an everyday role.
"I don't think there is entitlement right now for Pedro," Hurdle said. "I think Pedro has to earn his way. He needs to figure some things out in this environment. We are having some conversations on whether it'd be beneficial for him to come back."
In 56 games with the Pirates this year, Alvarez hit .196 with three homers and 15 RBIs. He struck out 67 times in 194 at-bats and committed 13 errors at third.
Lee expects to return during Wrigley series
CHICAGO -- First baseman Derrek Lee said there is a "good chance" that he will be cleared to come off the disabled list and return to the field before the Pirates end a three-game series in Chicago on Sunday.
Lee, who has been sidelined with a fractured left wrist since Aug. 10, took another step forward in his progression by taking batting practice with his teammates on Friday. Lee had resumed swinging in the batting cages earlier this week.
When Lee returns, he will immediately move back into a starting role. That playing time will come at the expense of Garrett Jones, who has been in the lineup regularly since Lee's injury. As Jones moves into a backup role at first base, he also likely won't get many starts in the outfield this month, as it, too, is already crowded.
Though the Pirates are still undecided on where, how and if Jones might fit into the 2012 plans, the organization has similar questions about Lee. The Pirates courted Lee as a free agent last winter, only to watch Lee sign a one-year, $7.25 million deal with Baltimore. Pittsburgh hasn't ruled out making an attempt to sign Lee again this offseason since he will be back in the free-agent pool.
"Is there a future? I don't know. I don't think he knows," manager Clint Hurdle said. "But we want to find out."
Lee, 35, said that he will wait until after the season before determining whether he even plans to play in 2012. He did not indicate whether he would consider returning to the Pirates, who have gone 8-23 since he arrived.
"I'm trying to just get on the field," Lee said on Friday. "I'll worry about everything else later. That has really not been my thought process until I get healthy."
Pirates being cautious with Karstens' shoulder
CHICAGO -- Manager Clint Hurdle said the Pirates are leaning toward having right-hander Jeff Karstens miss another turn through the rotation in order to alleviate the right shoulder soreness that popped up in his most recent two starts.
That plan is not yet definitive, though all involved want to be extra cautious at this point in the season. Karstens resumed playing catch on Friday, which was initially scheduled to be his next start date. Brian Burres has temporarily taken Karstens' spot in the rotation.
"Right now, it feels good, but I want to really make sure I don't rush it," Karstens said. "I want to make sure that my strength is really back. I do plan on pitching again at some point."
Rest has been the best remedy since Karstens threw 3 2/3 innings in a start against St. Louis on Sunday. His season innings count already sits at 152, which is 13 1/3 more innings than he pitched in six months last year. The last time Karstens accrued more than 152 innings was in 2006, when he combined to throw 190 1/3 at three different levels.
If Karstens does not pitch on Wednesday, the Pirates do not have to necessarily call on Burres to spot start. The roster flexibility afforded in September leaves open the option of calling someone else up from Triple-A to step in, if the Pirates prefer to go that route.
Bucs determining plans for Maholm, Correia
CHICAGO -- General manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle had lengthy meetings with both Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm on Thursday to discuss the prospect of either starting pitcher returning to the mound before the season ends in less than four weeks.
Hurdle would not disclose what specifics came out of those two meetings, though he noted that he did expect a resolution for both players to be coming soon.
"They are ongoing conversations about doing the best thing we can for them," Hurdle said. "We're going to have a better understanding as they continue to work through the rehab."
Maholm went on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain following an Aug. 17 start against the Cardinals. The left-hander had never been on the DL in his six previous seasons with the Pirates.
Three days after Maholm landed on the DL, Correia joined him there. The right-hander suffered a strained left oblique in his Aug. 19 start. Neither Correia nor Maholm traveled with the team to Chicago for this weekend series.
Pirates announce 9/11 observance plans
CHICAGO -- In observation of the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies, the Pirates will offer two complimentary tickets to all police officers, firefighters and paramedics for the team's Sept. 11 game against the Marlins. That game is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET at PNC Park.
Tickets will be first-come, first-served and can be reserved in one of two ways. A form can be downloaded at www.pirates.com/firstresponders, printed and returned to the Pirates by Sept. 9 to secure tickets. There will also be a First Responders table outside PNC Park on Sept. 11 for people to pick up day-of-game tickets. An ID is required for the pickup.
The Pirates also announced that they will be collecting donations at the ballpark for the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. Shanksville, which was the crash site of the hijacked flight that was taking aim at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., is located approximately 80 miles from Pittsburgh.
Those donations will be collected on Sept. 10 and 11.
The Pirates have also planned to honor heroes and victims from 9/11 during a pregame ceremony on Sept. 11. The United States Army Field Band Choir will perform the national anthem, and an honorary first pitch will be thrown by local resident Marine Cpl. Ben Kiernan. Kiernan was recently injured while serving in Afghanistan.
Evan Meek likely needs a few more rehab appearances in Triple-A, manager Clint Hurdle said, before the right-hander is ready to rejoin the Major League club. Meek, who has missed most of the season with right shoulder tendinitis, has made two appearances since transferring his rehab assignment to Indianapolis. He last pitched on Tuesday.
The Pirates still anticipate having outfielder Ryan Ludwick come off the disabled on Wednesday, which is the first day he is eligible to return. Ludwick is beginning a four-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday.
Short-season State College has named outfielder Wes Freeman the team's most valuable player for the 2011 season. Freeman hit .304 with 14 doubles, six homers and 25 RBIs in 50 games with the Spikes. He will finish the season with Low A West Virginia. Righty Nick Kingham (pitcher of the year) and catcher Matt Skirving (leadership award) also earned team honors.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.