Even if the Pirates' superb pitching begins to sputter -- and it surely didn't through the 5-4 victory Thursday night in Cincinnati -- they have no shortage of solutions.
Yes, even with Jeff Karstens getting reinjured in a rehabilitation start Thursday night.
Prospect Rudy Owens, a 24-year-old lefty, is banging down the door at Triple-A Indianapolis with a 4-2 record, an International League-best 2.35 ERA, 51 strikeouts and just 10 walks over 72 2/3 innings.
"Rudy's been outstanding," Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said. "He's going right at hitters, putting the ball where he wants, and he's getting people out."
Owens was a two-time Minor League Player of the Year in the Pirates' system heading into 2011, but his first experience in Triple-A brought a 5.05 ERA and serious doubts about his pedigree. Some in management were displeased, too, that his arm wasn't in the best shape coming into spring training of that year.
"Rudy's learned some hard lessons, no question," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
"It was a learning experience, for sure," Owens said. "But it also comes down to confidence not being where it needed to be. I was putting too much pressure on myself, and then the mechanics just weren't there for me."
Karstens, who has been rehabilitating a shoulder injury, was hurt in what likely would have been his final rehabilitation start. A tight right groin forced him to exit Triple-A Indianapolis' game Thursday at Pawtucket, R.I., after 63 pitches. There was no immediate prognosis for this injury.