PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Karstens' pitching agenda changed dramatically on Sunday morning, when plans to have him make a Triple-A rehab start were scratched by the Pirates.Instead of starting on Sunday in Indianapolis, Karstens will start Monday in Philadelphia. The right-hander, who has been disabled since mid-April with hip and shoulder issues, will be activated to open up the four-game series against the Phillies. Team officials were encouraged to take that step by a bullpen outing on Thursday, one which Karstens called "the best one I've had since Spring Training. Everything clicked." The rest of the rotation is being backed up a day -- with Erik Bedard to start on Tuesday, followed by James McDonald and A.J. Burnett in Philadelphia, and Kevin Correia pitching Friday's opener of the weekend series in St. Louis. Brad Lincoln is being moved to the bullpen. And the Pirates will have to make a roster move to allow for Karstens' activation of Monday.
Hurdle tossed for arguing third-strike call
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle earned his second ejection of the season on Sunday, contesting home-plate umpire Marty Foster calling out Casey McGehee on a checked-swing third strike in the fourth inning.After Detroit catcher Alex Avila dropped the pitch and picked it up to tag McGehee, the Pirates first baseman got into a quickly-escalating conversation with Foster. Hurdle came out to take McGehee's place in the argument, which did not last long before Foster gave the Bucs manager the thumb. Hurdle's first ejection of he season had come on May 2, at St. Louis.
Bucs much improved in Interleague Play
PITTSBURGH -- Clint Hurdle's GTD (getting things done) list is getting shorter. With Saturday's victory over the Tigers, the Pirates knocked down another item: Showing up against American League clubs.Entering Sunday's finale with Detroit, the Bucs were 10-7 in Interleague Play. "It was another one of those things on the to-do list, to change the mentality, the environment," Hurdle said. "Prior to last season, our record (in Interleague Play) was real backwards, for whatever reason. So there's been an adjustment. We've been able to show up better the last two seasons." Hurdle took over the Bucs' reins last season to see that their history in Interleague Play was the Majors' worst. In 2011, the Pirates' 8-7 record matched St. Louis for the best in Interleague Play among National League Central teams. This season, the Pirates are the only team in the division with a winning record over the AL (although both the Cardinals and the Reds still had a shot, taking 7-7 records into Sunday's play). "They don't give you trophies for that," Hurdle said. "But it's something we needed to do to show improvement."
Sutton's return highlights flurry of roster moves
PITTSBURGH -- Drew Sutton, a member of the Pirates for a few invisible hours on May 20, is "rejoining" the team.The Bucs claimed Sutton from the Tampa Bay Rays, who had designated the infielder for assignment on Friday. Sutton had hit .271 in 18 games with the Rays after being acquired for cash considerations from the Pirates on May 21, the day after the Bucs had made a similar deal for him with the Braves. In an unrelated move, the Pirates recalled right-handed reliever Bryan Morris from Triple-A Indianapolis, clearing roster space by optioning shortstop Jordy Mercer to Indianapolis. Morris beefs up the bullpen for the next couple of days, but he is expected to be returned to Indianapolis when Jeff Karstens is activated off the disabled list and rejoins the starting rotation. To open up room on the 40-man roster for Sutton, the Pirates transferred right-hander Charlie Morton to the 60-day disabled list. Morton is recovering from recent Tommy John surgery. At the time of the quick turnaround of Sutton, general manager Neal Huntington made it clear it was done to give him the instant Major League opportunity that the Rays, dealing with some injuries, could provide. When the Rays healed and Sutton's status changed, the Pirates felt fortunate to be able to add his versatile glove and switch-hitting bat. Sutton joins second baseman Neil Walker as the Bucs' only switch-hitters.
Hurdle's Pirates celebrated a milestone day on Saturday -- although neither he nor they were aware of it. By taking the field with a record of 37-32, the Pirates were marking their 20th day of the season above .500 and, more significantly, Day No. 72 on the winning side in the last two seasons combined.The significance? In the eight prior seasons through 2010, the Bucs had been above .500 for a total of 71 days.
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.