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04/18/12 9:14 PM ET

Bucs can use Lincoln in rotation or bullpen

PHOENIX -- Brad Lincoln got the first call at 12:30 a.m. in Indianapolis. His next call is likely to come this afternoon, telling him to get ready to take the mound against the D-backs.

Immediately after the conclusion of Tuesday night's game, the Pirates already knew they would be placing Jeff Karstens on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, and they notified Lincoln that he'd be replacing him on the roster.

Lincoln made it to Chase Field by early morning, a little sleep deprived, but happy to be here and eager to help. He was scheduled to start for the Triple-A Indians on Wednesday, so manager Clint Hurdle was likely to honor his throwing schedule if starter James McDonald needed midgame relief.

"I'm as fresh as can be. I'm not sure how they plan to use me, but I'll help out of the bullpen," Lincoln said.

"He's thrown extremely well in his last two starts in Indianapolis," Hurdle said. "He can support us with some length [out of the bullpen] or as a starting option."

The Bucs virtually emptied their bullpen in Tuesday night's win following Karstens departure after the first inning. Lincoln, as well as starter Kevin Correia, were available for relief support on Wednesday.

An off-day on Thursday gives Hurdle some flexibility in setting up his rotation for the ensuing six-game homestand. If Lincoln is to take Karstens' next turn, he would face the Rockies on Monday.

Bucs place Karstens on DL, recall Lincoln

PHOENIX -- Right-hander Jeff Karstens on Wednesday was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Pirates, who recalled right-hander Brad Lincoln from Triple-A Indianapolis to take his place on the roster and in the rotation.

Karstens had departed his start Tuesday night after one inning, suffering from inflammation in his pitching shoulder. He will return to Pittsburgh with the club following the Wednesday matinee, but the Pirates did not await results of his examination by team doctors before making the move.

"We went through an evaluation process with Jeff with [the D-backs'] doctors last night, and looking at the best move for us, we saw no need to milk it through, to have him skip one start then reassess," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Just shut it down. He'll be thoroughly evaluated by our team doctors when we get back, but this removes any urgency and provides some clarity on how we move forward."

Lincoln had entered Spring Training as a candidate for the rotation after making eight 2011 starts with the Pirates, going 2-3 with a 4.72 ERA. In two starts this season for Indianapolis, he has a 2.25 ERA with no walks and nine strikeouts in 12 innings.

The Bucs' 2006 No. 1 Draft choice (fourth overall selection) could be only a placeholder for A.J. Burnett, who is scheduled to make one more rehab start -- on Saturday with Double-A Altoona -- before coming off the DL for his debut with the Pirates.

Karstens allowed the D-backs two first-inning runs in his third start. He'd overcome rough first innings in each of his first two starts to rebound with strong outings, posting an ERA of 3.27 in them.

Apparently, however, the shoulder issue did not arise suddenly.

"But there were no visible signs. Tonight, there were visible signs," Hurdle had said following Tuesday night's game. "The ball was not coming out of his hand like we were hoping, but he still had his game face on.

"When he came in after the inning, we knew."

This is the first time in his Major League career that Karstens has had to be shelved with an arm-related issue. He spent time on the DL in 2007 with a fractured right leg, in 2008 with a strained groin muscle and in 2009 with a strained lower back.

For Hurdle, pitching changes most difficult

PHOENIX -- Among every manager's most difficult decisions is the timing of a starting pitcher's removal. That call is even more difficult than the norm for Clint Hurdle, because he doesn't go by the barometer that is chief for most of his brethren: the triple-digit pitch count.

"We don't use 100 pitches as a yardstick," Hurdle said. "We go by the other team's contact, our pitcher's command. We look for seven innings out of our starters, so we'd like to get them to the point they can fire up 110 pitches a game.

"One thing: I'll never ask a pitcher how he feels. It's a waste of time. They're always, 'I can get one more guy.' I give weight to the catcher's input, what he's seeing from his vantage point."

Whatever the "how" behind the decision to use the hook, the "when" is most critical. It is a safe presumption that managers lose more sleep over pitching changes than anything else.

"It's tough to take the ball out of the hand of a guy who is dominating a game, dominating a season. Dealing," Hurdle said. "But a manager's job is to take pitchers out before they give up runs. It's a walk of shame to go out there to take out a guy after he's given up three, four runs. Pretty hard not to figure it out by then."

Leaving the ball in a hot hand, of course, can also have repercussions. "Collateral damage" is a phrase not often associated with baseball, but with the ongoing trend of elbow and shoulder injuries, at times Hurdle wonders whether it fits.

"I don't know," he said. "Is it risk and reward? Was there collateral damage to Chris Carpenter's 270 innings last year? All that Brian Wilson was able to accomplish the last two years ... collateral damage? No one really knows."

Worth noting

• A.J. Burnett threw in the Chase Field bullpen for pitching coach Ray Searage on Wednesday, and he will hitch a ride with the Bucs back to Pennsylvania, setting up for a final rehab start on Saturday for Double-A Altoona.

Burnett attributes the ugly numbers in his last two rehab starts (15 hits and 10 runs in 5 2/3 innings with Class A Bradenton and Triple-A Indianapolis) to leaving too many pitches in the middle of the plate, but he otherwise deemed himself ready to step into the rotation.

• Setup man Jason Grilli has allowed three hits over 22 at-bats, for an opponents' average of .136, but two of the hits were homers, by the Dodgers' Andre Ethier and the D-backs' John McDonald, who on Tuesday tagged him for his 22nd career homer in 888 Major League games.

• Andrew McCutchen's single in the middle of Wednesday's eighth-inning go-ahead rally improved him to 8-for-16 in the seventh inning and beyond. Before the seventh he is 10-for-29.

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.