NEW YORK -- Kevin Correia made his start Thursday at the tail end of a string of successful outings. He also made what could be his second-to-last start with the Pirates.
Correia, who signed a two-year, $8 million contract before the 2011 season, will be a free agent after this year.
"I do know he's going to want to find a spot where he can get in the rotation and pitch every fifth day," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Correia lost that chance when the Pirates acquired Wandy Rodriguez from Houston in late July. Hurdle said the team tried to trade Correia and get him in a rotation while getting some value in return.
"We tried to find an opportunity for him to pitch in somebody else's rotation, and 20 other teams said no thanks, they're not interested," Hurdle said.
Hurdle said he made some personal phone calls on Correia's behalf.
"We were looking for an opportunity to better ourselves and give him an opportunity," Hurdle said. "We were very, very frank and open and honest with him and his agent."
When asked if the Pirates would like Correia to return, Hurdle said: "There's a lot about Kevin to like. I'll leave it at that.
"You got to have interest on both sides, or it's a moot point."
The Pirates will enter the 2013 season with uncertainty in their rotation even in the unlikely event Correia decides to re-sign with them. Aside from Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett, the team has holes.
James McDonald was one of the best starters in the National League the first half of the season, but regressed in the second, and Jeff Karstens missed a large portion of the season because of two injuries. Charlie Morton is rehabilitating his surgically repaired right elbow. The young pitchers the Pirates hope will compete for a starting spot in spring training, Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson, have struggled at times at the major league level.
Hurdle said the team will stockpile more than five starters heading into spring training just like they did this season.
"I've been in some situations where we've tried to put in eight," Hurdle said. "More often than not, as you're seeing throughout the season, whether it be injuries, personnel, things play themselves out."
Second baseman Neil Walker will visit a back specialist today in Pittsburgh, Hurdle said, but the manager noted the visit was previously scheduled. It did not come as a result of missing the past three games.
"I think we're just trying to make sure that we get the right diagnosis because sometimes those back injuries are very tough to put your finger on an exact diagnosis," Hurdle said.
Walker has struggled with back pain in the past month. He returned to play but has not started on consecutive days since Sept. 15-16. Brock Holt and Josh Harrison have played second in his absence.
The Pirates have reached the point in the season where Hurdle can begin conducting exit interviews with players.
"We talk about growth from last season to this season, things they were able to push through and improve upon," Hurdle said. "We talk about some challenges they might have accrued this season and how they think they'll answer for them moving forward."