Though the Pirates have no clear choice to fill the hole at the back of their rotation, they continue to add candidates.
Wednesday, they 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 walked more batters than he struck out and posted an 8.07 ERA, before biceps tendinitis ended his season in early August.
"We've talked to Jonathan about coming in and competing to make our club as a starter," general manager Neal Huntington said. "If we determine that we have five better, then he competes to make the club out of the bullpen."
The signing comes as negotiations with left-hander Francisco Liriano drag into a second month. Liriano agreed to terms in late December but broke the humerus in his right, non-throwing arm before taking a physical, which delayed the deal.
Sanchez will compete with Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson and others for the final spot in the rotation. Even if Liriano signs, he likely will not be ready when the season begins. Charlie Morton will not return until June or July from his rehabilitation after Tommy John surgery, and top prospect Gerrit Cole will spend some time at Class AAA Indianapolis before making his debut.
The San Francisco Giants drafted Sanchez in the 27th round in 2004. 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.
"Certainly you look at that 2010 season, it shows what could be," Huntington said. "Our challenge is helping Jonathan get back to that, one, fully healthy, and two, helping him get back to that pitcher that has been successful at various points in his career."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published February 7, 2013 5:00 AM