The Pirates on Wednesday signed left-handed starter Jonathan Sanchez to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.
Sanchez, 30, spent 2012 with the Kansas City Royals and the Colorado Rockies. He pitched poorly, walking more batters than he struck out and posting an 8.07 ERA, before biceps tendinitis ended his season in early August.
The signing comes as the Pirates' negotiations with lefty Francisco Liriano drag into a second month. Liriano agreed to terms with the Pirates in late December but broke the humerus in his right -- non-throwing -- arm before taking a physical, which delayed the deal.
Signing Sanchez does not mean the Liriano will not become official, but provides insurance to the rotation in case the deal falls apart. Even if Liriano signs, it is unlikely he will be ready for opening day. Sanchez will join Jeanmar Gomez, Chris Leroux, Andy Oliver and Justin Wilson as pitchers who could potentially start in the Class AAA Indianapolis rotation. They would be next in line if someone gets hurt, or if Kyle McPherson or Jeff Locke, the front-runners for the fifth rotation spot, struggle early in the season. Though Wilson will come to spring training prepared to start, it is likely he will compete for a role in the major league bullpen.
The San Francisco Giants drafted Sanchez in the 27th round in 2004. He has a 4.58 career ERA, a 5.0 career walks per nine and a 9.1 career strikeouts per nine rate. While with the Giants in 2010, his best season, he pitched 1931/3 innings with a 3.07 ERA and 205 strikeouts, but still walked a league-high 96 batters.
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