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03/13/2013 2:13 PM ET

Karstens sharp in first game action of spring

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jeff Karstens remained on target Wednesday to merge with the Pirates' season-opening rotation, working two crisp innings in a Minor League game.

Facing Phillies Triple-A players in Pirate City, Karstens allowed one hit and struck out one while making 26 pitches, including 15 strikes. It was so efficient, Karstens then repaired to the bullpen for 15 additional pitches. And so encouraging, he could joke about it afterwards.

"I was happy to walk off the field in one piece," he said following his first game action of the spring. "It was nice to get the competitive juices flowing again."

Karstens, recovered from biceps tendinitis, threw all fastballs in the first inning. In the second, he mixed in a couple of curves and changeups.

Jim Benedict, special assistant to general manager Neal Huntington, monitored Karstens' outing and reported back to manager Clint Hurdle.

"[Karstens] was very comfortable with the outing today," Hurdle relayed. "He threw all his pitches, spun the ball, and it all went very, very well."

"You can always get better, can never be satisfied -- it's a good feeling to have, never being satisfied," Karstens said. "My fastball command wasn't all that great. The curve ... if I could box it up and take it with me, I'd put it in a bag right now."

The Pirates are putting Karstens on a regular five-day rotation, meaning his next outing, also against Minor Leaguers, will be on Monday, when his target will be three innings or 45 pitches.

Nineteen days before Opening Day, but 26 days before the Pirates will first need a fifth starter, Hurdle said, "As of right now, as we mapped it out, we do see Jeff in the rotation."

"We do have enough time for him to be sharp -- but we probably couldn't have waited much longer," the manager added.

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.