CINCINNATI -- The Pirates will face the members of the American League West Division in 2013, including their former division mate, the Houston Astros, in the first season of continuous interleague play, according to the 2013 schedule released Wednesday by the Pirates at Major League Baseball.
The Pirates open the season April 1 against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park.
Each team will play 20 interleague games in '13, and the Astros' move to the AL West, which balances the AL and NL at 15 teams apiece, means interleague play will take place throughout the regular season.
Each of the six divisions in MLB will have five teams, meaning the Pirates will play 19 games against the four teams remaining in the NL Central.
"I like the fact that you're playing your division rivals an even number of times," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I'm real good with that. We actually got it a few days ago so we were able to look it over. There's some good challenges throughout. We'll go west a few more times. I do like the fact that there are an equal number of games within the division."
MLB assigned the Detroit Tigers as the Pirates' interleague 'rival,' and they will play a home-and-home series May 27-30, with the final two games at PNC Park.
MLB first moved to three divisions in each league in '94, when the Central Division contained five teams. The Milwaukee Brewers joined the division in '98, creating a six-team division that stands until after this season.
The Pirates finish '13 on the road against the Cincinnati Reds. Twenty-five of their final 32 games come against division opponents.
They play the Philadelphia Phillies at home around July 4 and welcome the New York Mets at home the weekend before the All-Star break, which runs from July 15-18.
Hurdle said Jeff Karstens will pitch out of the bullpen in the a series this weekend against the Cubs in Chicago.
Karstens, who has been dealing with a sore right hip, threw 30 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday.
Hurdle said that while the rotation is set through the Cubs series, the Pirates remain open to altering it for the rest of the season. They would like to see Kyle McPherson make a start if an opportunity presents itself, Hurdle said.
Jared Hughes released a statement through the Pirates Wednesday in response to Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips' allegations in a television interview Tuesday before the game.
Hughes claimed in the statement that he did not make any type of racist comment to Phillips after hitting him with a pitch Monday, as Phillips claimed -- without specifically referring to Hughes -- on Twitter and later in a television interview on NBC SportsTalk.
"I feel compelled to once again make it perfectly clear that I did not make any comment with a racial undertone or connotation during our exchange on Monday night, period," Phillips said.
"It is not how I was raised and not who I am as a person."
Pedro Alvarez was scratched from the lineup Wednesday because of pain in his right wrist. Josh Harrison replaced him at third base.
Schedule subject to change • Times will be announced at a later date
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 13, 2012 4:00 AM