CINCINNATI -- Neil Walker will always have trouble joyously celebrating birthdays, ever since the unspeakable aftermath of his 16th.

Pine-Richland High School's sophomore sports star turned 16 on Sept. 10, 2001, and went to school the next morning, when a couple periods into the day everything changed.

"I have my birthday and wake up the next day to go to school, and I remember being in the third period when all this stuff happens," Walker said. "And it was pretty emotional.

"I have a friend I grew up with whose birthday is Sept. 11, so we would always celebrate it together. That was not a very good day for him. No doubt, when I think of my birthday, I will always know the next day will be that memorable day."

Karstens, Walker optimistic after simulated game

CINCINNATI -- When Jeff Karstens said he was "pain-free" during a 60-pitch drill Tuesday afternoon, he meant it.

Not that there was any reason to doubt the assurance of the right-hander, but he acknowledged having learned his lesson when he tried to push his way through the early signs of a hip strain on Aug. 31 in Milwaukee. By continuing to pitch at less than full strength, he aggravated the situation, both to himself and on the scoreboard -- the Brewers scored four runs off him in the first one-third inning of an eventual 9-3 win.

"I definitely have to say something if I don't feel right. These are very important games for us," Karstens said following his 30-pitch simulated game, which followed 30 warmup pitches.

"And [I] did some running. So far, so good. No side effects."

But one surprise: When Neil Walker, one of the batters facing Karstens in the sim game, stood in on his more-sensitive left side, he did more than watch the pitches.

"He took some swings left-handed. I thought he'd just be taking," Karstens said. "He looked good."

Walker, recovering from lower back tightness, said he felt good, too. In fact, manager Clint Hurdle left open the possibility of Walker being used off the bench in Tuesday's game. That would also appear to be the second baseman's limit Wednesday, too.

The club wants him to continue with his accelerating workouts and, following Thursday's off-day, return to the lineup Friday in the opener of a four-game series in Chicago.

d'Arnaud: 'Oh, yeah, I had a play'

CINCINNATI -- In the wee minutes of Tuesday, with two outs in the 14th inning and men on second and third, Ryan Ludwick pummeled a Rick van den Hurk pitch on the ground toward left field.

The Pirates and the Reds seemed certain to remain tied at 3 for only a couple more seconds.

Not so fast. Pittsburgh shortstop Chase d'Arnaud dove to glove the smash deep in the hole, a few feet on the grass. But when d'Arnaud sprang to his feet and reached into his glove ready to cock his arm for a throw ... the ball squirted out of his bare hand.

d'Arnaud re-grabbed the ball in mid-air, hopped in frustration, and joined his Pittsburgh teammates in making their slow way off the field, on the wrong end of a 4-3 final.

Other than the irritation of not getting to finish the play after such a sensational stop, the bobble didn't seem very consequential to observers. As deep as the ball had been hit, d'Arnaud didn't appear to have a play.

He disagreed, and not just because Ludwick is one of the slower runners on the Reds.

"Oh, yeah, I had a play," d'Arnaud said. "When a ball is hit that hard, it doesn't matter who's running, I can get him.

"I could've gotten Cutch [Andrew McCutchen] out," added d'Arnaud with a glint in his eye, citing the Bucs' own fastest player.

Worth noting

• Ryan Ludwick could do little to help the Pirates last year (hitting only two homers and driving in 11 runs in 38 games), but he's hurting them all over the place now. He beat them Monday with a 14th-inning single -- three innings after beaning bench coach Jeff Banister with a line-drive foul.

• Right-handers Chris Resop, Jared Hughes and Chris Leroux, who made a total of 87 pitches in Monday's extra-inning affair, were not available out of the Bucs' bullpen Tuesday.

• Starling Marte, 1-for-12 since coming off the DL (a double in the ninth of Monday's game), sat out Tuesday's start.

Last word

"There was a lot of pitching out of the stretch late, and a lot of good work done."
-- Hurdle, complimenting the work of his relievers -- who stranded 12 runners in the last eight innings of Monday night's marathon