Did Karstens save his worst for last?


FORT MYERS, Fla. — Either way, Jeff Karstens figures he’s gonna pitch Sunday at Pirate City.

If Karstens is named the Pirates’ No. 5 starter — that decision likely will be announced tomorrow morning — he’ll pitch in a minor league game Sunday to stay on track for his season debut April 10 in Cincinnati.

If Karstens is beaten out by Virgil Vasquez, Karstens will pitch Sunday for Triple-A Indianapolis. Karstens does not expect to be in the Pirates’ bullpen if he loses the battle for the starter’s job.

“That’s the last thing on my mind right now after the way I pitched today,” Karstens said.

Karstens went 5 2/3 innings today in the Pirates’ 12-8 loss against the Twins. The right-hander allowed five runs on 10 hits, walked two, stuck out two and threw a wild pitch.

“He had no rhythm. He was keeping everything up. The ball was flat,” manager John Russell said.

Karstens also nicked a batter with a pitch. He said it was the first time he’d hit a batter in three years.

“It’s all a blur,” Karstens said. “That’s the way things go sometimes and, unfortunately, it was my day to have it. I’ve got to be better than that. We’ll see what happens.”

Early in the game, the only pitch Karstens could get over the plate was his fastball. The Twins sat on it, and teed off. In the third inning, Jason Kubel mashed a long, two-run homer to right field. Then the Twins rapped out three straight singles to make it 5-2.

• Karstens said he had a dream the other night about the fifth starter’s job. “Virgil and I were sitting there, waiting for them to tell us, and …”

Yes? What happened? “I don’t know,” Karstens said. “I woke up.”

• Vasquez last pitched Friday, when he gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays. He’ll pitch again Thursday, most likely in a minor league game.

• If nothing else, at least Karstens has his health. No, really. He began last season on the DL with elbow tendinitis. He also missed time one year with a broken leg at the end of spring training.

“Out of four or five (spring trainings), I’ve been able to break camp … once,” Karstens said. “It’s always a positive … maybe the only positive I have right now.”

# Jack Wilson ripped his first homer of the spring, a two-run shot in the third inning off Nick Blackburn.

• Matt Capps also had a forgettable outing. The closer worked one-third of an inning, and yielded four runs on four hits and one walk.

• Joe Frisaro of mlb.com speculated Sean Burnett could fill the Marlins’ need for a lefty reliever via trade.

• Remember Jonathan Albaladejo? In 2001, he asked the Pirates to release him when it was obvious he did not figure in the team’s plans.

Now, he’s close to locking up a bullpen job with the New York Yankees. Oops, d’ya think somebody in the Pirates’ front office made an evaluation boo-boo a few years ago?