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09/21/10 10:19 PM ET

Jones back in action from ailing shoulder

PITTSBURGH -- After missing two starts with right shoulder soreness, Garrett Jones returned to the Pirates' lineup for Tuesday's series opener against St. Louis. Jones initially injured the shoulder making a diving attempt at first base last Thursday in New York.

"He said he feels pretty normal," reported manager John Russell. "We're lucky that it probably was just a bruise more than anything. We don't have to worry about him diving awkwardly."

Russell said he'll likely scatter a few days off for Jones during these final two weeks of the season to help the first baseman with the maintenance of his shoulder. Sitting Jones would also give the organization additional looks at John Bowker at first.

Jones leads the team with 146 games played this season. He has reached base safely in each of his past 10 starts, though the first baseman is hitting just .181 in his last 46 games.

"I want to get back in there and help the team finish strong," Jones said.

Karstens to throw session; Lincoln available

PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Karstens is scheduled to throw a side session on Wednesday, which would mark the right-hander's first work off the mound since he was shut down with shoulder soreness after his Aug. 31 start.

Karstens threw 20 pitches on flat ground on Tuesday and reported afterward that his shoulder is feeling fine. He remains optimistic that after two or three sessions off the mound that he will still have time to make a few appearances out of the Pirates' bullpen next week.

Manager John Russell, though, isn't ready to commit to such a timetable.

"He's progressing, but you don't want to push it just to get him an inning," Russell said. "We're getting to the point to where if he doesn't crank it up pretty soon, he probably isn't going to crank it up."

One reliever who is available for the final two weeks of the season is Brad Lincoln. After working on refining some mechanical adjustments with pitching coach Ray Searage, Lincoln has been available out of the 'pen since the start of the homestand.

"Unfortunately, we haven't really had a situation to bring him in," Russell said. "One side of it is, it's been good that we haven't had to use him because we've been in some games and our starters have done pretty well. On the other hand, I would like to get him a couple innings here or there before the season ends."

The Pirates will only use Lincoln in a situation where he can come in to start an inning clean. He is also unlikely to see action late in tight games.

Pirates' AFL roster finalized

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have finalized their Arizona Fall League roster and will be sending pitchers Aaron Pribanic, Brian Leach and Justin Wilson to play for the Mesa Solar Sox next month.

The organization's participating position players -- catcher Tony Sanchez, infielders Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer and outfielder Andrew Lambo -- had already been previously announced.

Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark said that only one of the three pitchers (likely Wilson) will be a starter for the Solar Sox, though there is no need to read anything into that decision. The organization has targeted innings counts that it doesn't want its pitchers to exceed, and there are only so many starting spots available.

Wilson is coming off a strong end to his season, as he recently helped Double-A Altoona capture the Eastern League Championship title. Wilson, the Pirates' fifth-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, pitched 13 scoreless innings in the playoffs.

The left-hander went 11-8 with a 3.09 ERA in 27 regular-season appearances (26 starts). He struck out 134, but walked 71 in 142 2/3 innings.

Pribanic and Leach both spent the year pitching in Class A Bradenton's rotation. Pribanic, who was acquired from the Mariners in the Jack Wilson trade last year, finished 7-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 27 starts. A 25th-round pick in 2008, Leach posted a 3.85 ERA and a 9-9 record in 27 games (25 starts).

AFL action begins on Oct. 12.

Home pride is what Bucs are playing for

PITTSBURGH -- From a team standpoint, the Pirates have very little to hang their hat on in 2010.

Even with the team's recent sweep of Arizona, the club is almost assured of securing next June's No. 1 overall Draft pick with the Majors' worst record. Losing 100 games for the first time since 2001 isn't an "if" but a "when."

But the Pirates have apparently set one team goal pertaining to their final record, and it's related to how the team finishes out at home. It may be more unrealistic than ambitious, but the Pirates still have a chance at finishing the season with a home record above .500.

"It's been a tough year. Our record is not good," manager John Russell said. "But to have the opportunity to play .500 or above .500 at home after what we've gone through as a team and the struggles we've had on the road, it would be a tremendous feather in our team's hat. I think it would be a great feeling heading into the offseason."

The Pirates have a 37-39 record at PNC Park after beating St. Louis, 5-2. That means to finish better than .500, the club must win four out of its last five home games. That would take the club stringing together three straight series victories. That, too, hasn't been done by this Pirates team in 2010.

The last time the Pirates had a winning record at home was in 2006.

"It's something we're really focused on," Russell said. "We've been playing pretty well as of late, and if we can make that push and finish up strong this homestand, it gives us something to reflect on."

Bucs hitting coach discusses broken bats

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates hitting coach Don Long wears an inch-long scar under his left eye as a permanent reminder of the dangers of maple bats.

It was April 15, 2008, when Long -- standing in the corner of the visitors' dugout at Dodger Stadium -- was struck in the cheek by a piece of Nate McLouth's splintered bat. That incident was one of many that prompted Major League Baseball to immediately look into the dangers of broken bats.

MLB has reported a significant decrease in the number of maple bats broken. But when Long saw replays of what happened to Cubs rookie Tyler Colvin on Sunday, it was proof enough to him that not enough has been done yet. Colvin's season is over after he was impaled in the chest by part of a broken bat.

"My first thought is for him that he is OK," Long said. "It's unfortunate that he's going to miss the rest of the year because of that. My second thought is that we have to keep working to find a way to make it more safe.

"They can't say we've got it down so everything is good. We've got to keep going. I think what they did two years ago is a good start. But that's all it is -- a start."

Maple bats continue to be more dangerous than ash ones, because they shatter instead of break. MLB has instituted new maple-bat regulations, including a minimum level of wood density. Beginning this year, MLB also reduced the maximum diameter of bat barrels and increased the minimum diameter of bat handles to help minimize breakage.

Still, as evidenced on Sunday, nothing done so far has entirely addressed the safety issue.

"It seems like it has improved since 2008 when every night it seemed like there was something flying somewhere. I have not seen as much of that this year," Long said. "But still, we had one here last homestand that flew back behind our dugout and into the stands. It would be really easy for someone to get hurt very badly.

"Unfortunately, people often wait for something more serious to happen before really taking action. I think after this, they really need to take a stand and take it to the next level."

Worth noting

Lastings Milledge (left oblique strain) remains skeptical that he'll be able to return to the field again this season. As a result, Milledge said he will take part in the Pirates' instructional league after the end of the regular season. That will get Milledge prepared to play winter ball in Venezuela. ... Bullpen coach Luis Dorante will be managing the Bravos de Margarita club in Venezuela this winter. Second baseman Neil Walker and reliever Justin Thomas are both expected to play for Dorante, he confirmed on Tuesday. ... Catcher Jason Jaramillo is slated to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. ... With his start on Tuesday, Paul Maholm has now made 31 starts in each of the past three seasons. The last Pittsburgh lefty to start at least 30 games for three consecutive seasons was Bob Veale, who did so from 1964-70.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.