Pirates' pitching trio moving forward

Pirates' pitching trio moving forward

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates pitchers have found their groove in May, leading baseball in ERA, opposing batting average and strikeouts in the month entering Wednesday's game.

And there is even more help on the way.

Charlie Morton threw 80 pitches over four innings Tuesday for Double-A Altoona, giving up two hits, two walks and two unearned runs. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Morton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, would pitch for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday, then again May 31.

The right-hander's next rehab start will be ramped up to six innings and 90 pitches, then seven and 100 the following outing. Hurdle is not sure what Morton's role will be when he returns, and he will not worry about it for another 10 days.

"Starting is Charlie's niche right now," Hurdle said. "So we'll keep that in mind moving forward."

Jeff Karstens is also rehabbing in Altoona. He threw 60 pitches for the Curve on Saturday in his second rehab start while recovering from right shoulder inflammation. Hurdle said Karstens' next start had not been determined but should be announced soon.

Karstens was originally listed as the starter for the Curve on Thursday, but his name was removed Wednesday afternoon.

James McDonald, however, is not quite as far along as the two above. He threw a bullpen Tuesday, and Hurdle said the righty did not have any setbacks. He will throw another bullpen Friday. He has been on the disabled list with stiffness in his right shoulder since May 7.

"So far so good," Hurdle said of McDonald's recovery. "There were no repercussions from today. He didn't feel anything that set him back."

Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.