CINCINNATI -- Jeff Karstens is ready to resume pitching after working his way back from a strained right hip flexor -- but he will not immediately rejoin the rotation.

Rather, Karstens is due to be in the Wrigley Field bullpen for the upcoming four-game series against the Cubs, while Kevin Correia makes his next start in turn.

As manager Clint Hurdle laid out his short-term pitching plans prior to Wednesday night's game here, of far greater interest was the strong implication that James McDonald would be pitching for his spot in the rotation when he starts Friday's series opener in Chicago.

In confirming the rotation for the rest of that set -- following McDonald will be Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Locke and Correia -- Hurdle added, "That will set up Wandy to pitch the third game against the Brewers at home."

What about the first two against Milwaukee, on Tuesday and Wednesday? Leaving those spots unspoken probably was not an oversight on the manager's part. A.J. Burnett, who started Wednesday, would be in line to start one of them -- unless the staff decided to move him up to start the Monday finale against the Cubs on regular four days' rest.

That would push Correia back for the Tuesday start in PNC Park.

McDonald's second-half struggles have been well-documented, as he has posted a 6.91 ERA while the Pirates have lost eight of his 11 starts since the All-Star break. However, a possibly better indication of the lanky right-hander's regression is that he has reached eight strikeouts only once in his last 17 starts. Earlier this season, he punched out eight-plus in six straight outings.

As noteworthy, Hurdle indicated being eager to give rookie Kyle McPherson a start.

"If the opportunity presents itself," Hurdle said, "I'd like to give the ball for a start to McPherson."

Alvarez dealing with injured right wrist

CINCINNATI -- Shortly before the start of Wednesday night's game against the Reds, third baseman Pedro Alvarez was scratched from the Pirates' lineup. His right wrist was not feeling right.

A few hours later, it became clear how wrong that wrist felt: Manager Clint Hurdle could not even use Alvarez off the bench in a one-run game with a right-handed reliever on the mound.

After left-handed hitter Jeff Clement delivered a two-out pinch single off J.J. Hoover, righty-hitting Jose Tabata pinch-hit and fanned to end the 2-1 loss.

"It just started bothering me about 1:30 this afternoon," said Alvarez, holding up his heavily bandaged right wrist. "I have no idea what's going on. We'll take another look at it [Thursday, an off-day] and maybe have a better idea."

"Pedro was unavailable," Hurdle confirmed. "He's not sure how he hurt the wrist. He just showed up at the park and complained that his wrist felt funny. The trainer worked on him a bit and he tried to hit in the cage, but it didn't respond at all. He could do everything but swing the bat."

Worth noting

• Andrew McCutchen started play Wednesday only two shy of the Pittsburgh record for home runs by a center fielder, 28 by Brian Giles in 1999. Nate McLouth also clocked 26 homers in 2008, the season before McCutchen inherited the position.

• Thursday's off-day, before they begin a four-game series in Chicago against the Cubs, is the Pirates' final scheduled bye of the season. They are due to play 20 straight games through the Oct. 3 finale in PNC Park against the Braves.

• In the four games following their seven-error debacle in Friday's 12-2 loss to the Cubs, the Bucs had committed a total of two errors.

Last word

"We're a pitch, a play, a hit away from getting hot, and that's what I hold onto every day I show up. And that's what I continue to share with [the players], to get them focused in that direction."
-- Hurdle, on living with the five-game losing streak the club took into Wednesday night's game in Cincinnati