Jeff Karstens will make his first start in over two months this evening as he gets the call for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Karstens hasn't pitched since April 17 due to right shoulder inflammation and he also battled a hip ailment while sidelined. He was scheduled to pitch in a Triple-A rehab outing on Sunday, but will instead be activated off the disabled list to start tonight's opener.
With Karstens' return, the rest of the rotation is being pushed back a day, with originally scheduled starter Erik Bedard now going on Tuesday, while Brad Lincoln is being moved to the bullpen.
The 29-year-old Karstens went 9-9 with a 3.38 earned run average a season ago and was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA through three outings this season. He opened 2012 at home versus the Phillies and did not factor into a 2-1 win on April 7 after throwing six innings of one-run ball.
The righty has faced Philadelphia six times in his career, including four starts, and has logged a 3.09 ERA without a decision.
Taking the mound for the Phillies in tonight's opener will be Joe Blanton, who continues to get plagued by the home-run ball.
Blanton has a 7.44 ERA over his last seven starts and has given up 15 homers over that span. He was taken deep three times in a no-decision versus the Rockies on Wednesday, getting charged with five runs and six hits over seven frames while having a two-start win streak end.
The 31-year-old righty fell to 6-6 with a 5.04 ERA in 15 outings this season, including 14 starts. His only relief appearance came in his season debut on April 7 versus the Pirates and he took a loss after yielding a run in two- thirds of an inning.
Blanton is 1-1 with a 3.29 ERA in five all-time encounters against the Pirates.
The Phillies hurler will hope that the Pirates' bats are still reeling a bit from Sunday's encounter with the Tigers and Justin Verlander. The reigning American League MVP went the distance to hand Pittsburgh a 3-2 loss.
Garrett Jones hit a game-tying, two-run homer for the Pirates in the seventh inning, but reliever Chris Resop gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth.
"It was a nice swing," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He left a changeup up, Garret stayed on it and got through it. We played hard today."
Pittsburgh had won three straight and six of seven. It is one game behind Cincinnati for first place in the National League Central.
The Phillies come into this set having lost six of nine while getting swept in Sunday's doubleheader by the Rays, who took the first meeting 3-2 before winning the nightcap 7-3.
Cliff Lee toed the rubber for the Phils in the second game looking for his first win of 2012, but instead fell to 0-4 after allowing five runs over seven innings.
"A few crucial walks throughout the game ended up costing me," said Lee. "I feel like I'm better than that. I made some mistakes and they made me pay for them."
Philadelphia saw backup catcher Brian Schneider exit the second game in the sixth inning with a right ankle sprain after colliding with Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriguez at the plate.
The Pirates took two of three over the visiting Phillies to begin the season on April 5-8.