BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) - Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens was almost too efficient Wednesday in an 8-6 loss against a Toronto Blue Jays split squad.
Karstens was barely challenged as he threw three sharp, scoreless innings, so he went to the bullpen for some extra work after he was pulled. The right-hander faced just 11 batters and didn't have a three-ball count.
``Usually, I try to work as quick as possible,' Karstens said. ``It was just one of those things where I was able to locate a lot better than I did in the `pen before I went out there. I was all over the place in the `pen.'
Karstens gave up two hits and struck out one in his exhibition debut. He threw all his pitches and occasionally dropped to a three-quarters delivery, as he does during the regular season.
``My fastball location was pretty good, for the most part,' Karstens said. ``I got away with a couple pitches that were moving. My changeup is coming along.'
Once Karstens left the game with a 4-0 lead, the Blue Jays found ways to score. They tied the game with a four-run fifth inning against reliever Brad Lincoln.
Toronto's Yan Gomes hit a solo homer in the seventh that broke a 4-all tie. Jonathan Diaz added a two-run double off Pirates reliever Jeff Locke, and Luis Valbuena later homered.
Blue Jays starter Kyle Drabek allowed three runs on four hits in two innings. He walked one and struck out two.
``I thought it went good, although the numbers don't show it,' Drabek said. ``I've been working on mechanics a lot and location of my pitches. There were some that got away from me, but for the most part I was where I wanted to be.'
Competing for the final rotation spot, Drabek worked on his mechanics all winter and reported to Florida two weeks before the start of spring training.
``In my windup, I'm trying to stay back and not spin off so much,' Drabek said. ``Last year, we figured out that spinning off doesn't allow me to throw my fastball where I want to. We're working on me trying to stay straight up, staying smooth and being able to repeat it with each pitch.'
The Pirates got solo homers from Pedro Alvarez and Garret Jones. Starling Marte had a two-run shot in the seventh and has gotten hits in seven straight at_bats.
Alvarez went 2 for 3. He snapped a string of five hitless at_bats by going deep off Drabek in the second inning.
``Whenever you can square up a couple balls in the game, it's a good thing,' Alvarez said. ``I've just got to keep it going - keep the consistency and the good at_bats. The results will take care of themselves.'
NOTES: Pirates 2B Neil Walker was scratched from the lineup before the game because of a sore lower back. He is expected to be out two or three days. ... Pirates RHP Charlie Morton, who had hip surgery in October, faced seven hitters before reaching his pitch count Wednesday in an intrasquad game. ``It was OK but I got a little out of sync,' Morton said. Morton will throw a bullpen session Friday, then begin a normal five-day routine. He expects to make his Grapefruit League debut next week. ... Pirates 2B Josh Harrison, who doubled in his two at_bats Wednesday, has hit safely in six of his seven at_bats this spring.
The Associated Press News Service
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