PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Karstens, shut down two and a half weeks ago with shoulder inflammation, said he is feeling "a lot better" after four throwing sessions into his recovery program.Karstens stretched out his flat-ground throwing to 90 feet Friday afternoon at PNC Park. Chris Leroux (strained pectoral muscle) is on a similar conservative schedule and tossed at 80 feet on Friday. "I'm anxious to return, but we want to do it quickly and safely," Karstens said. "The first time [I threw] it stunk. Second time was better, and it's kept getting better. "But it's still fairly early. We want to build up endurance and strength, and go from there." While Karstens is already eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list, Leroux went on the 60-day DL on April 4 so still has at least a month of rehab remaining. "And I'm going to need all of it, at least," Leroux said.
"They're both making advancement on their flat-ground programs," manager Clint Hurdle said. "They both feel fine, are coming along well."
Hughes reflects on record-setting game
PITTSBURGH -- On April 25, Jared Hughes made history as MLB's first doubleheader supplemental 26th-man to appear in a game. Eight days later, he claimed one of the franchise-record 17 strikeouts the Bucs notched against the Cardinals.Only one thing for the 26-year-old righty to say about that: "Wow. Two records in one week. Pretty neat." Chatting Friday afternoon at PNC Park, Hughes wasn't even fully aware of the significance of 17. "Did it tie the record?" asked Hughes. When set straight on the unprecedented feat, his eyes grew big. Between the two historic appearances, Hughes had made his second trip of the season to Indianapolis, the Pirates' Triple-A club. "I think I got a free flight coming by now," said the frequent flyer.
McCutchen still out with stomach flu
PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen missed his second start in three games on Friday, still recovering from the stomach flu that had forced his fourth-inning removal on Thursday in St. Louis.Manager Clint Hurdle had said he was giving McCutchen an off-day when he sat out Wednesday's game against the Cardinals, but when the center fielder had to leave the ensuing game early, it became apparent he was dealing with some illness. Hurdle hoped to be able to use McCutchen off the bench against the Reds. "He spent some time today with the doctor," the Hurdle said prior to the game. "We'll give him some more time. If the doctors release their report, you can find out more from them." Nate McLouth made his second start in center. McLouth is 1-for-11 coming off the bench, including 0-for-8 in a pinch-hitting role and was hitting .211 (4-for-19) when in the starting lineup.
April showers bring May ... powers? Entering Friday night's game, the Bucs, whose early-season hitting was drawing comparison to some of the meekest offensive performances in MLB history, led the Majors in extra-base hits since April 24. In that stretch, Pittsburgh had 38 and was followed by Boston (36) and Seattle (34). Fans wandering into PNC Park's Hall of Fame club in the later innings of Friday night's game had their drinks mixed and served left-handed -- by former Pirates southpaw John Smiley, the club's last 20-game winner (20-8 in 1991). The Last Word: "You just keep pitching, and we'll count them." -- Clint Hurdle to Erik Bedard, who said he wasn't aware that he had struck out a club-record seven consecutive batters in Thursday's start in St. Louis.
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.