DUNEDIN, Fla. — Right-hander Jeff Karstens looked good today in his final spring training outing. Karstens worked four innings and gave up a run on four hits, walked one and struck out one.
“I’m in a really good place on the mound right now,” Karstens said. “In the middle of spring training, I was walking some guys, coming out of my delivery. I was worrying about things I shouldn’t worry about — not so much results and things like that, but pitching (mechanics). After today, I’m happy with where I am, heading into the season. I’m excited to see what it brings. It’s the first year I really trained (in the offseason) to be a starter. It’s different now, knowing the expectations after what I did last year. I want more of that and I want guys to see more of that.”
Does Karstens have more of a sense of comfort, knowing from the giddy-up that he’s in the rotation and not the bullpen? “I wouldn’t say comfort,” he said. “I don’t want to get to where I feel a sense of entitlement. I would say I felt more at ease. I know I can start, I can relieve, I’m in a good place with this team and I’ve done some good things. But never at any time did I feel a sense of entitlement because at any time something can happen and it ends like that.”
»»» You can’t tell yet by looking at him, but Karstens has decided to give up his usual buzz-cut look. “I’m letting my hair grow until it’s absolutely disgusting,” Karstens said, “or until Clint (Hurdle) tells me to cut it.”
»»» Catcher Michael McKenry was struck near his inner thigh by a foul tip and needed a couple of minutes to walk it off. When McKenry walked stiffly to the mound, Karstens decided to lighten the mood by asking, “Michael, are you and your wife planning to have kids anytime soon?”
»»» Surprise! Matt Hague went deep again, crushing the first pitch he saw from Jim Hoey. (For the record, I called it, too.) That gave The Hit Collector a team-high seven homers in 52 spring at-bats. He hit 12 home runs in 534 at-bats at Triple-A Indy last year, which caused some folks to wonder if he had enough power to be a corner infielder in the majors.
“He’s not trying to hit long balls,” Hurdle said. “But I do think he’s gotten to a point in his maturation process that when balls are elevated, he’s finishing the swing much better. There’s times with young hitters when it’s all about contact, all about getting hits. It’s something he worked on in winter ball. He’s putting good swings on balls that are elevated. His swing’s in a real nice place. I always look back at some players who hit 20, 25, 30 home runs in the majors … none of them hit home runs in the minor leagues. They mature, they get a little stronger. Not only has he hit homers, he’s given us good at-bats, some lengthy at-bats and balls he’s hit the other way. He’s in a very good place, he’s confident and he’s having fun with it.”
»»» Not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but reliever Juan Cruz said he’s fine after taking a liner off his right arm during yesterday’s game against the Twins. There’s a big, red welt on Cruz’s arm but he was not wearing any sore of brace or wrap. And while we’re exploring the Planet of the Aches, McKenry told me after the game that he’s no worse for wear after absorbing that foul tip.
»»» I’m passing the baton to Karen Price, who will pick up the club the next two days in the City of Brotherly Shove. Hopefully, none of the venom from today’s Flyers-Penguins game carries over with the fans for the baseball scrimmages at Citizens Bank Park.
Check back here Wednesday (I’ll post any news out of the workout at PNC Park) and Thursday for Opening Day coverage.
Game 1: Philadelphia @ Pirates, 1:35 p.m. ET
Phillies (0-0) — Roy Halladay rhp (season debut)
Pirates (0-0) — Erik Bedard lhp (season debut)