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04/17/2007 12:18 AM ET
Karstens sharp in rehab start for Tampa
Right-hander might be back in New York quicker than expected
A strong rehab start might put Jeff Karstens on the fast track back to Yankee Stadium. (Paul Sancya/AP)

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Considering the current state of the New York Yankees starting rotation, it might not be long before Jeff Karstens forces his way into the lineup.

The 24-year-old right-hander scattered three singles, struck out five and walked one in four innings to help Tampa blank visiting Clearwater, 3-0, during a a Class A Advanced rehab start Monday.

It has not yet been announced if Karstens, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since March 25 with stiffness in his right elbow, will make another Minor League appearance or join New York's rotation.

Given that Yankees starters Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano are also on the disabled list, the Yankees might need to bring him up faster.

"Off of what he did in Spring Training, if the people who are watching him feel this is where he should be, we'd obviously take that advice," Joe Torre told MLB.com.

Joshua Schmidt replaced Karstens and worked a perfect fifth before Ian Kennedy (1-1) gave up a hit and four walks in three scoreless innings to pick up the win. Eric Wordekemper allowed a hit in the ninth en route to his fourth save.

Tampa (6-5) scored one run in the second on Timothy O'Brien's RBI single and two more in the seventh on Jose Tabata's two-run triple.

Clearwater starter Patrick Overholt (1-2) pitched well in defeat, surrendering one run on six hits while striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings. Michael Zagurski was charged with two runs in 1 1/3 innings for the Threshers (6-5).

Marc Jimenez is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.