PITTSBURGH -- Pirates right-hander Jeff Karstens underwent an MRI on his right groin on Friday, the results of which indicated that the pitcher's hip flexor was the source of the discomfort.

Karstens was removed in the fifth inning after feeling tightness in his right groin while rehabbing his right shoulder at Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday.

Turns out it was good news for Karstens, who dealt with a groin injury in 2008 and did not want to repeat the experience.

"Right now, it's day to day. It feels a lot better today than it did yesterday," Karstens said. "I didn't really want to take it any farther, because I didn't want to aggravate it any more."

Karstens was also relieved that the injury didn't come to his already injured shoulder. He hasn't appeared in a Major League game since April 17, when he pitched an inning against Arizona. Karstens was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 18.

"It's extremely frustrating, because I've been working so hard to get back," Karstens said. "This was supposed to be my last outing.

"[The shoulder] feels great. I haven't had any -- knock on wood -- any setbacks with my shoulder. So, that was definitely a positive for me."

Hurdle still beaming over Pirates' victory

PITTSBURGH -- So, Clint Hurdle, what did you think of Thursday night's game in Cincinnati? Just another of 162, right?

Twenty-hours later, on Friday afternoon, the Pirates manager's eye still sparkled when the subject of the 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Reds came up.

"That gassed me up," Hurdle said, enthusiastically. "That's why you coach. The way so many guys handled situations. A total team effort. On the road, against a good ballclub. I was proud of our guys."

What did Hurdle love about a hard-fought game which moved the second-place Bucs within two games of the Reds' National League Central lead? Let him count the ways:

• "I love the way the team picked up Joel [Hanrahan, who blew the save when giving up a first-pitch homer to Ryan Ludwick in the bottom of the ninth]. Boom! The air is taken out, and the team battled back to pick him up for a change."

• "Then two guys answer [Aroldis] Chapman's call [Clint Barmes and Michael McKenry, back-to-back doubles in the 10th off the previously-untouched Cuban Missile]."

• "[Jared] Hughes answering the challenge he was given [entering in the sixth with men on first and third and none out, and getting out of it without scoring]."

• "[Jose] Tabata's throw in the first [to gun down Joey Votto at the plate] and baserunning later [taking two bases on Barmes' sacrifice bunt to get into position to score on a sacrifice fly]."

• "Chris Resop [saving the game after allowing a leadoff double to Votto in the 10th] ... might've been the best game he's pitched for us all year."

A fuse-lighting game?

"I've seen [games like that] spark something. I've also seen where the next night it's, 'How come we can't do that again?' I just know we felt good walking out of that place," Hurdle summarized.

Hurdle will be forever linked to Kansas City

PITTSBURGH -- Before Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle started his managerial career with Colorado in 2002, he had a 10-year playing career that began when Kansas City made him the eighth overall pick in the 1975 Draft.

Although he's still attached to the organization, Hurdle said this weekend's Interleague series against the Royals isn't much different from any other.

"It's really more unique when I'm back there. That's when it grabs me a little bit," Hurdle said before Friday's series opener. "I know like, one player, and I know a couple of the staff guys, so there's not much there. But it's nice to go back, to see [Kauffman] stadium, the transformation of the stadium."

Hurdle made his Major League debut with the Royals in 1977. His most productive year was 1980, when Hurdle hit .294 with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs over 130 games.

As a manager, Hurdle has a 6-7 record against Kansas City following Friday's 4-2 win.

Vets reunion part of Bucs' Heritage festivities

PITTSBURGH -- They milled about under the right-field tunnel of PNC Park, some of the 83 Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans seeing each other for the first time in years.

They returned from all over -- New York, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Florida -- to nearby the Pittsburgh base from where they had been deployed, and to an environment that reflected the lifestyle for which they had fought: A baseball game.

Assisting the reunion of the veterans, the majority of them Marines from K Company, 3rd Battalion, highlights the Pirates' annual Heritage Weekend activities.

"This is one of the most important things we can do," said club chairman Bob Nutting, as the veterans lined up alongside him on the right-field warning track to receive the crowd's loud salute, "to recognize the service of the all Armed Forces, but particularly the men who have given so much and come back, wounded for us.

"Just a little opportunity to show our appreciation to them and to their families, for sacrificing. We're also giving them a chance to interact with each other in a positive environment."

"Some of us haven't seen each other for seven years," said Nate Huffman. "Staff Sergeant [Oscar] Aguilera organized it, since we've never had a reunion."

Sgt. Aguilera got cracking on the reunion about eight months ago, and when he reached out to the national support-group Wounded Warriors Project, he had no problem identifying where his guys wanted to meet.

"We wanted to come to a ballgame," Aguilera said. "I'm a big baseball fan, and most of these guys originally are from the Ohio Valley."

Bob Laverick, the Fayetteville, N.C.-based Regional Director of Wounded Warriors, took the ball from there.

"We found out they'd had a really hard time over in Iraq," Laverick said, "and offered our support to give them an opportunity to come together."

"We're proud to be able to bring in a lot of the family members with them," Nutting said, "so they all get to spend a little bit of time together."

Worth noting

• As part of the club's annual Heritage Weekend, both clubs will wear throwback Negro League uniforms for Saturday night's second game of the series. The Pirates will dress as Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Royals will wear Kansas City Monarchs uniforms. The uniforms will be auctioned in the coming weeks with all proceeds benefiting Pirates Charities.

• The Bucs have won nine of their last 12 home games against American League competition.

• Pittsburgh has won the opening game of its last six series, after having dropped 11 of the first 14 series openers.

• With Friday night's victory, Clint Hurdle managed an end to a four-game losing streak against the Royals, dating to his 2007-08 days at the helm of the Rockies.